Friday, February 13, 2009

Review: Little House in the Big Woods and Sequels by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
Farmer Boy
On the Banks of Plum Creek
By the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years
The First Four Years
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

YA, Autobiography / Historical Fiction
published: 1932 - 1971
6 of 5 stars

I loved these book as a child and they left indelible images in my head. Images of the prairie from the back of a covered wagon; Christmas with only a tin cup, stick of candy, penny, and tiny cake with white sugar; grasshoppers falling from the sky and covering the house; a never-ending winter with hay twisting, wheat grinding, brown bread, and potatoes. These books where the first to pop into my head when I joined the Childhood Favorites Challenge.

Some observations this time around:
  • The first book, while still wonderful, didn't have as much story to it as the rest. It was more instructional in nature. It seems Mrs. Wilder hit her stride in the second installment.
  • As a child, Ma and Pa where old, of course, and a mite stringent in their work ethic. But as an adult reader I realized how young they were, how dedicated, and even how fun-loving the father was.
  • These book would not have been popular or interesting if the narrator had not been Laura. Imagine the story if Mary had been writing it! Yuck. Laura was lovable and interesting because she wasn't the perfect little girl she often wished to be. I loved her because she let her bonnet hand by the strings, was ever so slightly disobedient, loved to run and help her father, loved the wildness of the country and had a sixth sense about it the way her father did. Spirited Laura was the heart of the Little House books.
  • While all those things I remembered where still as fascinating and memorable to me, other things stood as just as plainly. Things like Laura teaching school when she was only 15, how close the family came to being murdered by Indians, the love and faith of Ma who followed her restless husband into the middle of nowhere (several times!) to start completely over, the work and preparation necessary to store enough food for winter, and how grateful they were for so little.
  • I remember being horrified that Laura married such a old man, 10 years older, when she was only 18. Ironically, I did the exact same thing.
  • I remember reading Farmer Boy during free time in my grade school class that was right before lunch. It seemed to me that the book was all about huge quantities of delicious food. It was torture for a hungry kid. The impression held true this time around as well.
  • When I thought of the end of the series, it was my memory that there was almost no romance, or even interaction, between Laura and Almanzo. When I began reading them again, I found myself saddened by the idea that I would have no idea about their relationship when I finished. I was wrong! There is quite a bit of interaction and subtle romance. I guess I ust didn't register any of it as a kid, and then mourned the loss only when thinking back on it as an adult.
  • The tragedies in the First Four Years hit me much harder this time. I didn't remember diphtheria and near paralyzation, nor failed crops year after years that meant strangling debt. I certainly didn't remember the baby boy that died. That was the most difficult of all the books for me.
  • If I had to pick favorites, it would be Little House on the Praire and The Long Winter. Both take you completely out of this world and into situations that we in our sheltered, comfortable lives can't begin to imagine.
I still love these books. I would recommend them to everyone. In fact, I gave the first one to my 9 year old daughter to read. Stay tuned for her review!


  1. Ah, the memories. Great review! I tried to make my oldest girl read these, and she never would. Maybe I should be trying about now with the next one. We'll see how that goes.

  2. Julie, Thanks for this review. I haven't picked up those books in ages and it's about time I introduce them to my kids (like I should have already done). We love watching the series but there's nothing like reading the true story. I just got my old set out and I'm going to start reading them to Emmie. Thanks!!

  3. I'm looking forward to Jadyn's review :)

    The Long Winter is my favorite too. I read Little House in the Big Woods when I was 7 (I got it for my birthday), and LOVED it. Thanks for the sweet reminder!

  4. I had totally forgotten about all these books - and I loved them as a little girl. I bet Gabi would love them. I'll have to get them for her. Thanks for the reminder.