Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Heresy (Or, How Laura Ingalls Wilder and I Don't Have Any Chemistry)

Right now, I'm reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my 6-year-old and having the same reaction to it that I did 30 years ago: it's okay.  Yup, just okay.  I know this is heresy to legions of Little House devotees (dare I say fanatics?), my sister among them, but these books just don't have the emotional resonance for me that the Ramona series or the All-of-a-Kind Family series (which a friend called, correctly, I think, "the Jewish Little House books") or, for an older audience, Anne of Green Gables, do.  Laura herself was bored during those long winters - why did she think they'd be any more interesting for her readers?  To be fair, the books are not nearly as boring as they could be, but they just don't do it for me. 

And yet, I am finally reading them to my daughter for a number of reasons.  Peer pressure was one - many of her friends are reading it too.  But I also I felt that it was part of the children's canon, books that every (girl) child should read in order to be culturally literate. 

I'm not sure what accounts for the series' appeal, but the hardships faced by Laura and her family and their lack of technology, not to mention what we consider basic creature comforts (like indoor plumbing) are fascinating to some.  But not me.  I can relate to many books that I "shouldn't" be able to - books set in a time and place I know nothing about, like Anne of Green Gables and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate but not these.  I love plenty of spunky heroines (Anne and Calpurnia again being prime examples) but for me, Laura isn't one of them.  I guess it just comes down to chemistry.  It's just not there between me and Laura.

If you or your child loves the Little House books, why? 


  1. Asher LOVES them. I wasn't a fan as a kid (couldn't get through the series!), but I like them now. A word of warning: The First Four Years is not for kids. It was published posthumously and meant to be an adult book, not part of the series. The ending is very upsetting. Maybe a good one to skip. We decided to read Farmer Boy last, though, so at least the end of The First Four Years isn't his last impression of the books.

  2. she does drone on and on about hanging meats and churning butter. noa likes them.

  3. Having an older boy, we haven't gotten to the Little House series yet in our house. Personally I really loved them as a kid and read all of them. Like Donna mentioned, what I remember enjoying most is all the cooking preparation and discussion of household chores. I still remember the chapter about how they butchered their pig and how they made a ball with the bladder or some gross thing. Oh, and I just remembered the maple syrup episode. I kind of digged all that stuff.

    But I kind of agree with you Rachel, nothing compares to the All of Kind Family series. The best by far.

  4. I agree with Rachel on this one. When I was young I preferred the Adventure Series (From Wikipedia: The "Adventure" series is a collection of children's adventure novels by Canadian-born American author Willard Price. The fourteen-book series chronicles the exploits of budding teenage zoologists Hal and Roger Hunt, as they travel around the world capturing exotic and dangerous animals for their father's wildlife collection.)

  5. I remember enjoying them as a child, but as an adult I have had no desire to revisit them, which is in contrast to many other books I loved as a kid. I may --MAY-- read Farmer Boy to my son, but so many other books take precedence, I doubt we'll get to it.

    This post made me laugh because I can relate in that everyone spews love all over the place for Dr. Seuss. And I hate every single one of his books except for My Many Colored Days.

  6. Storied Cities: I'm not a huge Dr. Seuss fan either although I liked I'm Not Going to Get Up Today (except for the last, non-rhyming two lines!) and In A People House well enough.

    I have a feeling an upcoming post will also be about books that other people love (you included) but I didn't.

  7. The Aforementioned SisterOctober 19, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    Heresy! Heresy! Heresy!