|Illustration by Garth Williams|
Alexa from Alexa Love Books and I have teamed up for Looking Back at Little House, a three-day blog event celebrating our love for this favorite childhood series. Yesterday, we shared some Little House memories, but it's all about our re-read today! We've got thoughts on the series overall, answers to questions that popped up while we were reading and our favorite things about this series. Be sure to check out Alexa's post too!
When I opened the first page of Little House in the Big Woods, it was like stepping back in time. Everything from the illustrations to the narration took me back to my childhood. I was nervous before starting my re-read that these wouldn't live up to my memories, but I'm so pleased to say that they were still quite enjoyable. The simple and direct writing style made these an easy series binge. I finished all nine in just three days!
As much as I enjoyed my re-read, I don't think I loved them as much as an adult as I did when I was younger. I'm not sure that I'd read them again in the future, unless I was reading them with my future children. I think there's a sense of magic and wonder in reading them when you're young, especially realizing how different life was during Laura's time, that I didn't necessarily feel this time around. But these books will remain on my favorites shelf, and I hope I get the chance to read them with a child experiencing them for the first time!
I think my favorite part about re-reading this series was the way I saw everything in a new light. As a kid, I appreciated the adventure, the danger, the simplicity and the history. I romanticized everything in the books and saw all of their experiences through a rosy, positive glow. As an adult, I think my reaction has more depth to it. I can see the racial prejudices, the best and worst in the characters, the difficulty of this life and the challenges of being a woman during this time... but I also have a deeper appreciation for the resiliency of pioneers, the incredible love between the Ingalls family and the simple joy in unselfishness and gratitude.
Was there anything that stood out to you as an adult that you missed as a child?
I think the biggest thing that stood out to me this time was how selfish Pa could be. Laura idolizes her father, and I think I felt the same way she did when I read it as a child. As an adult, I couldn't help seeing him through new eyes. He's constantly uprooting his family, rarely in a good financial situation and makes decisions on a whim. He clearly loves his wife and children, but I realized he's not without flaws.
How did you feel about the portrayal of historical details and events?
I was on Tumblr the other day, and I saw a screenshot of a message from Warner Brothers studio that read:
The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today's society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. x
Honestly, I can't think of a better way to describe my reaction to the portrayal of historical details and events in this book. There is so much value in the Little House series, including what it teaches children about this time period and life in the West. It shows the best part of the pioneering spirit, but it also shines a sad light on the way Native Americans, African Americans and immigrants were treated. Either way, I'm glad this series gives readers a peek into the past. It's a fascinating portrayal that made me want to learn even more.
What’s the most memorable moment of the series for you?
I couldn't remember any specific moments prior to re-reading, but I know exactly what I'll imagine when I think of the Little House series now: Almanzo driving his sleigh miles and miles in the dead of winter every weekend to bring Laura home to her family because she's miserable and homesick at her first teaching job. HEART EYES.
What character trait best represents this series?
Sacrifice. While there are exceptions, I was shocked by how unselfish and sacrificial people are in these books. Almanzo risked his life to get wheat for the town when they were starving. Laura gave up the money she earned as a teacher to make sure Mary could stay in school. Ma left behind her home and family because her husband wanted to go West. I could give example after example of the sacrifices made by the characters.
What did you notice about roles within the family and within society?
I definitely noticed that Pa was the authority figure in the family, and it was a big deal for Ma to say anything contradicting him. Ma was responsible for the chores like cleaning, cooking and keeping house and Pa farmed and went hunting. The children were expected to be seen and not heard, as well as to obey their parents in all things. But Laura told Almanzo she didn't want to include the word "obey" in their vows - and he agreed!
What would be the hardest aspect of living the way they did?
For me, it's a tie between the amount of hard work they performed and the isolation of living where they did. There is so much effort that goes into everything from cooking to cleaning during that time. I take the comforts of my life today for granted! I can't imagine having to work that much to merely survive. But I also think it would be incredibly difficult to live in a place that's so removed from everyone else. There's a beauty in the open country, but there is also loneliness and additional hardship simply in being all on your own.
If you moved as often as the Ingalls family, what would you choose to bring with you?
Well, I certainly wouldn't make my dog, Jackson, walk behind the wagon! But as far as objects go, I'd probably bring a family Bible, a few special books and some important photographs. I love the furniture and decorations in my home, but none of them are as significant as the stuff that reminds me of the people I love.
What lessons did you learn from reading Laura’s life story?
One of the biggest things I learned was the idea that you control your attitude no matter the circumstance. Whether you're living in a home of dirt or a place with walls and windows, you can still find joy in your life and love for the people around you. You may be angry or sad at times, but there's something powerful and beautiful about choosing to be positive in the face of adversity.
If you wrote a book based on your life, how would it compare to Laura’s story?
There are a lot of aspects that would be quite different. I got to have a lot more fun and work a lot less as a child than Laura did! I've lived in Georgia my whole life, so you'd see a lot less of the country in my story. But the one thing I think would be the same is the love between family and the bittersweet nature of growing up.
Would you read these books again - on your own or with future children?
I don't know if I would read these again on my own, but I'd definitely read them with my children! I'd love to be able to share it with them and experience the whole series through their eyes. I think it would be so cool to see how they react to certain things! I think it would spark some important discussions about the past, too.
Without question, it's These Happy Golden Years (#8). There's just so much swooning!
Favorite Illustration: See right!
Favorite Quote: “She thought to herself, 'This is now.' She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.” - Little House in the Big Woods
Favorite Place They Live: I'm partial to their cabin in the woods of Wisconsin. It's so cozy and close to family!
Favorite Character: While Laura will always be my first favorite, my second is Almanzo. It's practically a given since These Happy Golden Years and Farmer Boy are my favorites books of the series.
Favorite Animal: I've always been a horse nerd, so I fell in love with Prince and Lady (Almanzo's horses).
Favorite Food: I'd happily devour Mrs. Wilder's stack of pancakes with maple syrup and butter!
Favorite Chore: I loved Almanzo breaking his oxen, Bright and Star, in Farmer Boy.
Favorite Craft/Activity: There are so many options, but I'm quite fond of when they play in Plum Creek.
- Scary Moment: There are many scarier moments, but the most memorable for me was when the Ingalls cross the river and Jack gets lost because Pa wouldn't let him ride in the wagon.
- Sweet Moment: It's an obvious choice, but I love when Almanzo proposes. I like how Laura's family asks her about the engagement, and she's very insistent that she's not just marrying him for his horses.
- Silly Moment: When two men in town got drunk and walked down the street singing loudly, Laura found it quite funny. Everyone else in the family was horrified, but Pa totally understood her reaction.
- Surprising Moment: I was shocked when Pa knew that Almanzo was hiding seeds in the walls during the winter, took out the plug and got some to help feed his family.
- Sad Moment: While everything in The First Four Years is sad, I can't call any of it a favorite moment. So, my favorite sad moment is probably when Mary goes off to college. Such a bittersweet thing!
- Sassy Moment: Nellie joins Laura and Almanzo's carriage ride, so Laura purposely scares the horses so Nellie won't ride with them again. It made me laugh so hard, especially because Almanzo saw her do it.
How would you answer these questions?
What are your Little House favorites?
What are your Little House favorites?