Friday, February 01, 2008

Little House in the Big Woods

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. 1932. Little House in the Big Woods.

Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.

Of course it has now been much longer than sixty years. Longer than sixty years since Laura Ingalls Wilder fictionalized her childhood years and began writing her now famous series. Longer than sixty years since Laura Ingalls was a child growing up in what now seems quite an unfamiliar world. Her accounts of her childhood--her observations about family and life and friendship--seem so simple in some ways. In the first chapter alone, the reader learns the joys of smoking venison and playing with a pigs' bladder not to mention the how-to's of making head cheese. Each episode, each observation offers the reader a window into the past. Some things have changed--and changed a lot--other things have remained the same. One of the things that resonates in this book--in this series is the love and joy of family life. Pa. Ma. Mary. Laura. Carrie. Each are part of the family. Each are important, valued, loved. The relationship of Laura with her parents and Laura with her sisters and Laura with her beloved dog, Jack, are timeless.

I grew up with these books. I'm sure at least a few of them were read aloud to me. But I'm even more sure that I read them all on my own at least a dozen times. Being able to read these to myself was more than enough motivation to stick with the phonics of the school system. Laura Ingalls Wilder. E.B. White. Beverly Cleary. These were the REASONS why reading was important to learn, to master.

What more can I say about Laura Ingalls Wilder? I wanted to be her growing up. I loved the books. I practically had them memorized. The sequences of events. The illustrations that accompanied each of those events. The memories--the lovely lazy memories of cozying up reading these books--are ones I'll always have. I really can't say much more about such an old friend.

One thing I can say, however, is that you really MUST make a point of listening to these books on audio. Cherry Jones does such a wonderful, fabulous job narrating the books. The books are incredible on their own. And I love them. I do. But it's magical to hear these beloved books come to life on audio. Trust me.

What seems completely sad to me--though I don't think the book is in any real danger of going out of print--is that in some places it is being challenged. There are people wanting schools and libraries to remove it from the shelves because "promotes racial epithets and is fueling the fire of racism." Personally, I don't see it. I will discuss this issue more when I review Little House on the Prairie.


Emma said...

I love this book so much. Of course the rest of the series is wonderful as well, but this one has a cozy, comfortable feel about it.

I had read about Ingall Wilder's books being challenged and thought I must have mis-understood! Don't people understand that people DID use racist language in the past and it was OK? That's where we came from and why we wanted to change? Frustrating!

Cath said...

I read this one for the first time (I'm 54!) at the end of last year. I loved it. I understand now why my two daughters adored them and plan to read the rest this year if I can. I couldn't add them to my 'Heart of a Child' challenge though because I didn't actually read them when I was a child.

Splendid Little Stars said...

Searching for information about Laura Ingalls Wilder, I came across your blog. I love your description of the book(s) because that is exactly how I felt about them.