Holiday Review: Little House in the Big Woods (Little House #1) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

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For a few years, I’ve wanted to do a holiday re-read of the Little House series and decided this was the year.  I vaguely remember reading the books when I was a child but most of my memories are based on the television show.  We watched with my Mama and she is still obsessed with it today, introducing it to her grandchildren.

So, what did adult Mary think of the first book in the series?  From a writing perspective, it’s very simple.  LIW is economical with her words but still gives vivid descriptions of life in the woods of Wisconsin.  “The days were clear and bright.  Laura and Mary stood on chairs by the window and looked out across the glittering snow at the glittering trees.  Snow was piled all along their bare, dark branches, and it sparkled in the sunshine.  Icicles hung from the eaves of the house to the snowbanks, great icicles as large at the top as Laura’s arm.  They were like glass and full of sharp lights.”

I was left with a couple of thoughts after finishing LHitBW.  First, life was so much simpler just a short time ago.  Yes, it is based in the 1870’s but in the history of the planet, that’s the blink of an eye.  Are we better off today?  Arguable.  Health care has advanced.  Ok, that’s good.  Technology has made our lives easier.  Some would say that’s good too but I’m not sure.  Reading about the Ingalls’ lives, each day was focused on food and shelter first, then quality time with family.  Now, we take food and shelter for granted and throw away quality time with family.  This led me to my second thought: People are spoiled.  We think cell phones, iPads and all kinds of other goodies are our right and we are deprived without them.  In contrast, Laura had a corncob that she used as a doll for years until she received a real one.  And, she was HAPPY!  Her Pa and Ma worked their rear ends off (literally) to provide said food and shelter.  Anything above that was a bonus and treated as such.  Truth is, reading this actually made me feel a little worse about today’s world.  The contrast was saddening.  I can agree that it’s great that we have so many conveniences today but the truth is we don’t appreciate them and, frankly, many people aren’t willing to work for what they get.  It’s doubtful many of us today would be prepared to survive in similar circumstances.

Maybe the Little House series should be required reading for middle graders (and even some adults).  A reminder of where we came from would give some perspective.

4/5 stars and a classic that shouldn’t be forgotten.

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