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text 2017-05-25 00:50
My canon: the little house years
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder,Garth Williams
Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder,Garth Williams
On the Banks of Plum Creek - Laura Ingalls Wilder,Garth Williams
By the Shores of Silver Lake - Laura Ingalls Wilder,Garth Williams
The Long Winter - Laura Ingalls Wilder,Garth Williams

When you are a reader it's possible to mark your life in books. There are those books that are so immutably connected to a prior time and place that opening the book is like time-travel - a way to be your younger self once again.


I could list the books that do this for me, although I would always add to the list as the thought occurred to me: A Little Princess, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Anna Karenina, Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, The Anna Papers, Charms for the Easy Life. Sooner or later, I will tell you about all of those books. And many, many more.


But today, I'm going to talk about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books, which I read into tatters. I was a bookish girl, and I still remember the Christmas that I was 7, in the third grade. We were living in a house in Omaha, Nebraska, on Hickory Street. Is there any street name that feels more Americana than a street named after a tree? My husband grew up on Birch Street. I lived on Hickory Street for a short time, and while I lived on Hickory Street, I woke up one Christmas morning, and ran downstairs and found the complete series under the tree for me.


The covers were the gingham edged version, I think. Although, I suppose I could be wrong about that because I no longer have my childhood editions. I read them into shreds, and they disappeared somewhere along the way. I own the gingham edged editions because I bought them when my daughter was small, hoping that she would love them as I did. She didn't, but I've unequivocally gotten my money's worth, because I've read them all, more than once. 


These might have been the first books that I truly loved. I devoured the first book, laying on my back under the tree on Christmas Day, watching the Christmas lights winking above me. I dragged myself out from under the tree to have Christmas dinner with my family - they wouldn't let me read during dinner, and I still remember racing through dinner, trying to be polite and conversational because all I wanted was to get back to Laura and Pa and their cabin in the Wisconsin woods, where Laura and Mary played in the attic surrounded by pumpkins and squash and the other harvested foods that would keep them fed during the long, dark, snowy winters. I can still see Garth William's illustrations in my mind's eye.


I read these books ten times. Twenty times. More times than I can count. I was always partial to the first two, and I never liked On the Banks of Plum Creek, probably because that was the year that they lived in Minnesota, and that horrible Nellie Oleson makes Laura's life so terrible.


As an adult, I am most astonished by The Long Winter, which has the most harrowing description of a town on the edge of starvation that I've ever read, although the terrible anxiety and danger is only apparent by reading between the lines. To a child, a long winter sounds like a lark, a delightful time-out-of-mind experience of endless snow days tucked in warm, in front of a fire. Only when I realized how close to death they were did I recognize the incredible courage demonstrated by Ma & Pa and the townspeople who kept themselves, their children, and their neighbors fed through a famine.


The television series premiered the same year that those books showed up under my Christmas tree. I don't connect those two things in my mind, although it seems obvious to me now that my parents gave me the books because of the series. For years, I faithfully watched every episode, laughing at Laura's antics, identifying with her enthusiasm, her heedlessness, her lack of interest in girlish things. The series ran until I was a junior in high school, long after I had left Laura behind for Ray-Bans and Tolstoy.


When I read the books now, I am that girl, all over again.

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review 2016-05-23 23:46
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder,Garth Williams

I didn't read Little House in the Big Woods as a child (I read about half of the Little House series), so I don't have any nostalgic memories of this one. The writing is very inconsistent. The best parts are the food descriptions: churning butter, making cheese, even butchering the pig. The worst parts are the inclusions of the racist terms inj*n and d*rk*y.

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review 2015-05-08 01:30
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder,Garth Williams

Laura Ingalls and her family live deep in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Their log cabin is surrounded by miles of trees, and their closest neighbors are bears, wolves, and panthers. Daily chores keep Laura and her sister Mary busy, but they still find time to go exploring with their dog, Jack. (source)


I remember reading all of the Little House books as a kid - as well as watching the TV series - and adoring them. I seriously wanted to be Laura Ingalls - I even had a bonnet that I used to wear everywhere, complete with braids in my hair. For my internship, I host an intergenerational book club for elementary aged girls and their favorite adults (worked out to be a mother-daughter group, but I loosely defined the role of the adult in an effort to include every family situation), and the girls decided that they wanted to read Little House in the Big Woods for our meeting in May. I was really excited about the opportunity to revisit one of my childhood favorites. 


To be completely honest, this just didn't live up to my memories. I actually found it to be quite dull. Wilder describes her childhood, but she does so without much storytelling style at all. Her tone is preachy at times, which is something that I had forgotten. I think that this book is very representative of the mindset held by authors of children's literature at the time when this was published. It's still a sweet book, but if I'm being honest, it just doesn't hold up to so many other children's books that are out there. I appreciate the historical value of this text... but I also think there are other books that are more likely to ignite a passion for learning about history. 


The Little House series still holds a special place in my heart. I still look forward to the day when I'll read these books with my own daughter -- but I'm far more excited to introduce her to the TV series, which manages to entertain while still delivering a wholesome message. I'm also more excited to read books like Beezus and Ramona and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to her - books that, again, have a wholesome message but are still fun to read. It makes me sad that my experience reading this book this time around wasn't what I'd remembered, but I guess that's just how things work out sometimes. Are there any books that you read and loved as a child, but were disappointed by as an adult?

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review 2014-11-15 15:43
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder,Garth Williams

It is interesting to read this book given its classic status.  These are the earliest childhood memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  She is about four to five during the course of the book.  It's really only interesting as a work specifically for children.  It can introduce children to the realities of pioneer life in the era following the Civil War.  In that, it is worthwhile for a child reader, but there is otherwise not much here.

I intend to read later books in the series, which depict an older Laura, because she is so young here, it can not be much more than what it is.  The prose is very straight forward although she does use large words at times.

OK for kids as a historical artifact.  Not much here for either children or adults from a literary perspective.

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text 2014-10-02 23:55
#BookADayUK October# Day 2 - Favorite Fictional Dog
101 Dalmations - Narinder Dhami,Narinder Dhami Dodie Smith
Little House in the Big Woods (Illustrated) - Ingalls Wilder, Laura,Helen Sewell

Perdita, of course.  Or Jack.  


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