Monday, October 18, 2010

Favorites Monday: the Little House books

For my first weekly post on my favorite stories, it’s only fitting to talk about my first favorite story: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series.

I’ve loved those books for as long as I can remember. I’m sure my mother introduced them to me, but I don’t remember her reading them aloud. I was a precocious, self-taught reader who was reading at a 4th or 5th grade level in first grade, so I could’ve read the first 3-4 books on my own by then.

Pictures of me at 6 or 7 show a suntanned girl with two long braids of brown hair, just like Laura in On the Banks of Plum Creek. Laura was the first heroine I identified with. I too was a tomboy, a country girl going to school in town and struggling to fit in, a lover of horses, and a restless soul who always wondered what lay beyond the horizon. Pa and Ma Ingalls even reminded me of my own parents, since my mother was quiet, educated, proper, and a former schoolteacher, while Dad had more of a practical intelligence and was outgoing and well-liked wherever he went.

All through my childhood I loved reading about this girl who was so much like me, but who led such a very different life as a pioneer girl a hundred years before I was born. I read the entire series to tatters, and as I approached adolescence myself my interest turned to the later books. I envied Laura for her adventures and for getting to move so often while I was growing up in the same house for 18 years, and by the time I was 11 or 12 I envied her for Almanzo and the brown Morgans. (Actually, I’d still like my own brown Morgan. It’ll probably never happen, but it’d be awesome.)

I still pull the books out every few years, and they hold up very well to adult re-reading. There’s a wonderful spare lyricism to the prose style. It’s unadorned, but it doesn’t need lots of adjectives or a flowery style to paint a vivid picture in your mind. But I no longer envy Laura. Now I can see just how much hardship the family endured, and I can understand Ma’s frustration with just how long it took Pa to settle in one place so her daughters could get stability and a decent education.

What about you? What was the first book you loved, and do you still love it as an adult?


  1. So many years ago now, I hardly remember! But that horse picture reminds me of Mary O'Hara's trilogy that began with "My Friend Flicka." The third book, "The Green Grass of Wyoming" was probably one of my earliest romances. I loved those books. I should re-read them as I expect they would hold up well.

  2. That horse was the nearest match online I could find for how Almanzo's Prince and Lady are described in the Little House books--old school Morgan (the modern ones often look more like Tennessee Walkers or American Saddlebreds, i.e. not so compact and robust), solid brown, incredible trot.

  3. I had read all the Little House books by 4th grade. I remember because we did a Little House unit and did a mural. I used to make paper dolls of Ma and Pa and Mary and Laura. My favorite is still The Long Winter. I try to read it to my 4th grade class but can't keep their attention :(

  4. So far my 6-year-old has shown no interest whatsoever when I've tried to introduce her to Little House in the Big Woods. She seems to have got my fantasy gene but so far not the history one--she's interested in Harry Potter and Narnia and the milder ghost/vampire/werewolf stories like Scooby Doo.

    I still have hopes of making her a history geek yet, but clearly "Mommy thinks it's cool" isn't exciting by itself.

    I think Little Town on the Prairie is my favorite because it's nice to see Laura have so much fun after The Long Winter.