REVIEW: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

REVIEW: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls WilderLittle House in the Big Woods (Little House #1) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Also in this series: Little House on the Prairie
Published by Harper Collins (1932), Hardcover, 238pg
Filed under: Classic, Fiction, Historical Fiction
Got my copy from: Library
Buy your own copy at Amazon or add it to your Goodreads shelf.

three-starsthree-starsthree-stars

Meet Laura Ingalls...the little girl who would grow up to write the Little House books. Wolves and panthers and bears roamed the deep Wisconsin woods in the 1870's. In those same woods, Laura Ingalls lived with her Pa and Ma, and her sisters Mary and baby Carrie, in a snug little house built of logs. Pa hunted and trapped. Ma made her own cheese and maple syrup. All night long, the wind howled lonesomely, but Pa played his fiddle and sang, keeping the family safe and cozy. (From Goodreads)

I haven’t read the Little House books in SO. LONG. A reread of the series has been on my mind for the last few years, but I stupidly sold my box set a few moves ago and I haven’t replaced it yet. I finally got up the courage to wander into the children’s section of the library the other week, so now I can finally get reacquainted with Laura and her family.

The writing style feels very much like it’s from the POV of a child (Laura, obviously), which I didn’t remember from the last time I read it. I also didn’t remember the very Victorian-ish/Edwardian-ish sensibilities, the kind that you’d find in books like The Secret Garden, for instance. For example: Nature is good! Children should be outdoors! Hard work is good, too, and children should work hard. (Children like working hard, too. It’s almost like playing but more useful?) It makes sense, because Laura COMES from that time period. Also, that sort of thing was popular (again) when her books first came out in the 1930s– or maybe she made it popular again! Either way, it’s there, and it’s making me regret living in a city.

Did you know that the Little House books are based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s real life? Because I didn’t. Or if I DID, I’d forgotten. It’s strange to think of her writing these books, making herself and her family book characters. How much is real, and how much is fictional? At least SOME (if not most) of it has to be idealized fictions of real life events, if only because I know for sure that no five year old kid is going to sit perfectly still and quiet at Christmas dinner (because they know that kids are seen, not heard. Yeah RIGHT.).

When I first read these books as a kid, though, I probably didn’t realize any of that. And, honestly, it doesn’t bug me that much now. Instead, I’ve rediscovered my love of descriptions of food in books. omg, the FOOD.

The chapter with the maple sugar party/dance/NIGHT OF AMAZING THINGS is the stuff of my DREAMS. There’s nothing I’d like better than eating maple off of a plate of snow, but as it’s now May and I live in southern California, I don’t forsee it happening any time soon. However, I can totally just keep reading this series and obsess over the other kinds of foods that’re bound to show up: I particularly recall a scene where Ma makes homemade donuts. YUM.

So, in conclusion: I enjoyed revisiting the Ingalls family. Maybe they’re just a tiny bit preachy, but I didn’t really mind as I was so distracted by the descriptions of food. And the fictionalization of real-life events is something that always interests me– especially when it’s the person who experienced those events doing the fictionalizing. Thumbs up for pioneers, I guess!

Read: May 4-5, 2013

Bookmark the permalink.

3 Comments

  1. I think this was one of my favorite and most read books when I was a kid! I could not get enough of it!! A few years ago, I actually got to visit the place where Laura actually wrote these books and I was in heaven!!

  2. “At least SOME (if not most) of it has to be idealized fictions of real life events, if only because I know for sure that no five year old kid is going to sit perfectly still and quiet at Christmas dinner (because they know that kids are seen, not heard. Yeah RIGHT.).”

    The attitudes and mores of the 1980’s are different to the 1870’s. Children really were expected to be seen and not heard, and most were. The attitudes and mores of the 1940’s and 1950’s cannot be compared to the 1980’s, either. Much of the change from these different time periods have much to do with wars, and mass media. Laura was born after the Civil War, but her family was affected by that war as well as the government policies that allowed them to move west. It was the same with WW1 and WW2, as well as all of the other wars since then. One of the sayings post WW1 was, “How can you keep them on the farm when they’ve seen Paris?”

    All of her books reflect the social norms and attitudes of those times. Work before pleasure, Self sacrifice, being thankful for what you have, and respect of your elders. Sundays was a day of rest.
    Skills, greatly lacking today, were common place. As someone who has a large skill base, I stand amazed at the skills that both Caroline and Charles had. It transcended their meager finances to have a full and rich life. These skills were passed on to their children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>