Book Review, Not New: Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ok, I know I’m going against the grain here, but I’m kind of good at that. I’m today reviewing a book that has been around for awhile….

But, I can’t believe I had never read it, until now!

Little House in the Big WoodsWe read Little House in the Big Woods, the first in the Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, for our homeschool ‘Morning Basket’ read-aloud. Since probably everyone in the world had read this as a 6th grader, I won’t give you a summary of the story, but rather share some of my reflections on the story. *In case you’re wondering, Morning Basket is morning reading time. We focus and begin our school day this way. We adopted this practice this fall, and I think it is great! We’ve read some great books, altogether, doing this.* 

To me, the book showcases the importance of family and simple amusements of times past, the joys and challenges of frontier homesteading,  a few how-to’s that made me curious to learn more, and also reflected a tension between living in the city versus the country, and discussed the changing role of technology…themes that are all still very relevant today.

Family, and Simple Joys

I loved reading about the interaction of the family. I appreciated that the story was told from Laura’s point of view, though not in the first person. My boys cracked up about her repeated comments about her ugly brown hair, and her sister, Mary’s, golden locks.

Pa’s fiddle and his evening stories were memorable, as was Ma’s calm reaction when Laura ripped her pocket after collecting too many stones during their trip to town.  I loved the care and devotion that was shown between Pa and Ma, and how they encouraged and honored each other in their speech and actions. Beautiful.

Memorable, too, were the large family gatherings at Christmas with Aunt, Uncle and cousins, and the maple sugar/dance party at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Frontier Life and REAL Homesteading

If I lived in Laura’s time, I would be dead.

A sobering thought.

As I pulled my last bag of blanched broccoli from my deep freeze I thought, “Wow. I surely didn’t put up enough for winter!” and also, “The Ingalls’ didn’t have a deep freeze, either.” Epic fail.

Seriously, the sheer amount of work, ALL. THE. TIME. really made me think about the little I actually do, and the many things I take for granted. If I HAD to ‘put by’ all my food to survive the winter,…..well, we’d all be a heckuva lot skinnier.

I really have respect for those who have homesteaded before me, and have had to work so hard.

How To’s

I enjoyed reading about cheesemaking, maple syruping, and the various recipes described in the book. Granted, Laura was writing as an adult, looking back on her childhood, but the description she gave to hunting, various kinds of preserving and cooking, and even games and amusements provided a very entertaining way to learn about her life.

Technology, and City/Country tension

Striking to me was Pa’s reaction to the threshing machine. He was excited to get so much work accomplished in such a short amount of time. He was all for ‘progress’, and the thresher made his life so much easier. However, even with this new technology, there was still a communal aspect to the work. I think that too often, we’re all stuck behind individual machines, so our labor-saving devices also separate us from others. Part of the beauty, to me, of so much of this book was that, even though the work was hard, everyone pitched in, and maybe even had a little fun. Maple sugaring, for example, was a group project and brought people together.

I also reacted to Laura and Mary’s first visit to town. They had never seen two houses together, much less a store. … How amazing to think on that for awhile. I had to smile when I read of Laura’s confusion on seeing wash handing out on bushes in front of a house in the small town, even thought it was not “wash day” (as the Ingalls’ had a specific day for each of the household chores).

Even in this small aspect, that someone might wash their clothes on a different day than her family, opened up the world to her, and introduced her to the concept that there are different ways to think about things (even something as necessary and somewhat mundane as laundry).

Again, how could I have missed reading these? I look forward to ‘catching up’ with the rest of the series, bit by bit!

2 thoughts on “Book Review, Not New: Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

  1. Tammy says:

    That’s so funny about your “I would be dead” thoughts. Last night I was at the annual dinner for Farmers and Ranchers and they told stories of some of the old timers and those were my exact thoughts as I heard their tales. AMAZING what people went through to survive. A pity that we’ve lost that grittiness.

  2. Ashley says:

    I am so glad you are reading them with your boys. I bet I’ve read the whole series at least a dozen times. Love it. I can’t wait to start reading them with the boys when they are bigger. I just hope they like them half as much as I do!

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