Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Review: Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods is the first book in the Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Since I've never read the series, I decided to start with this first book for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge at Stray Thoughts. It was a fascinating look into the lives of ordinary people in the mid-1800s. This book covers the year that Laura turned 5 years old, although I've read that she was actually only 3 years old when these events took place. Her publisher seemed to fear that no one would believe she could remember with such clear detail happenings when she was so young! Personally, I'm amazed she could remember them so clearly at 5 years old!

Little House in the Big Woods begins with the daily activities of the family during the fall harvest and slaughter season. I was impressed with how much food they managed to preserve and set aside in their little home - and all without electricity or running water! We follow their lives through the long winter, enjoying their family Christmas celebration, then the early spring celebration of "sugaring off," when the sap began to run in the maple trees. Summer days outside soon follow, with gardening chores, making butter and cheese, and days of running barefoot under the trees of the Big Woods.

I enjoyed the simplicity with which Laura told her stories. She made even the most complicated undertakings, such as Pa building a corner shelf for Ma, seem easy. I could picture each scene as she described them.

I found it interesting that, although Mary and Laura were very well-disciplined, that wasn't the case with all children of their time. An incident with one of their older cousins illustrated that, even back in 1872, there were spoiled children who insisted on their own way! Overall, though, children were "seen and not heard" and "minded their manners." To some that may seem harsh, but Mary and Laura were by no means abused or mistreated. Their parents clearly loved them, as illustrated by Pa taking time to sit with the girls on his knee at night, playing games with them on the floor, and playing the fiddle for them at bedtime. And this book illustrates that Pa and Ma worked hard to make sure there was plenty of food supplied and that basic needs were cared for. Whenever possible, there were special treats, such as candy and "store-bought sugar." Far from missing out on anything, I think Mary and Laura were much wealthier in things that really matter, such as love for the family and working together to make a home, than most children in our day.

I loved the insights into Charles and Caroline Ingalls' relationship. Charles loved to make and buy special things for Caroline, and she always showed deep appreciation for anything he did for her. I thought it was funny that, although Caroline was quiet and submissive to Charles all the time, just a soft-spoken "Charles!" from her would stop him in his tracks!

Although this book is written for young children, it isn't childish. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it from an adult perspective, and I think it's worth reading if for no other reason than to remind us of the hard work and perseverance of our ancestors. Add in its entertainment value, and it's definitely a worthy book.

6 comments:

  1. So glad you enjoyed it! I just finished this book, too, and so loved rereading it. I remember the first time through being fascinated that they used everything -- even a pig bladder for a ball! And I don't know how they did all that without running water -- I wash my hands numerous times a day. Loved your observations about Ma and Pa.

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    1. I loved it! It was such a quick read that I was sad when I finished it. I'm almost finished with Little House on the Prairie now, and I have two related books I want to read and review before the end of the month. I didn't know this challenge would be so much fun! Thanks for doing it, Barbara!

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  2. I love the Little House series, I don't know how many times I've read it but now you're making me want to read the whole series yet again!

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    1. I don't see how I'm going to stop with just the 3 books I have. I may just read the whole series now and read other things next year for the challenge. You'll have a good time reading them to your little girl! I wish I had read them to my children when they were little.

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  3. I read the books when I was in about 5th grade and loved them and of course still watch the tv show. I think I would enjoy reading them again. Your description of the family makes me think of the stories my mother tells about her growing up years. Her parents were much like Charles and Caroline. Next time I'm in the library looking for a book, I'll mosey over to the Little House books.

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    1. I think my grandparents must have been a lot like Charles and Caroline too. My grandfather died before I could remember him, but from stories I've heard, he and my grandmother were very much in love! I've really enjoyed reading these books from an adult perspective; it gives some deeper meaning to some of the stories.

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Thanks for taking a minute to read my ramblings and leave a comment! I appreciate it!

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