Monday 25 January 2016

#LittleHouseRAL: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is my first review for the Little House Read-Along that Lynn and I are hosting. If you'd like to join us you still can! Check out the details and schedule here.

So I read this book waaay back at the beginning of the month; it was actually the first book I read in 2016, but of course I have been totally rubbish at actually writing this post, but here we are. It's not the end of the month yet, I still have time!

I've been so excited to kick off this read-along of a series that I have very few memories of ever having read before. People have been telling me how it's comfort reading for them and I can absolutely see that. 

The book kicks off as winter begins with Laura and her family - Ma, Pa, Mary and baby Carrie - all tucked up snug in their little house as the bears prowl and the weather rages outside the door. The house seems totally impenetrable, protected by the firelight and the sound of Pa's fiddle playing and stocked up with smoked, salted and frozen meat caught by Pa with his gun. It will probably come as no surprise that I loved the air of self-sufficiency running through this book. It provided such an interesting look into life in 1870s America; a period about which I know very little. 

It also made me think a lot about how much we take for granted in our modern lives, and how little most of us actually have to do nowadays. Our houses are heated, our food is pre-packaged, everywhere is easily accessible by car... For Laura and her family so much work and preparation went into things that seem so trivial to us, and it was a really good reminder for me.

I wonder if Mary was actually so perfect though? In every piece of children's literature I love there is always the 'perfect' child to juxtapose the 'unruly' heroine - Diana and Anne, Beth and Jo, countless of Noel Streatfeild's characters - and often I wonder if the perfection is just in the memory of the author (who often was the 'unruly' child, as is the case with Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott and Noel Streatfeild) or whether it was actually reality. I don't know if there's any way to know, but I found it interesting to wonder!

That said, I did relate to Laura a lot more than I did Mary. I particularly enjoyed the scene where she is arguing with her cousin (I think? The other Laura Ingalls anyway!) about whose baby is prettier, it gave me a little giggle, and the scene with the party was my favourite - such beautiful description, and I always love reading about the ways that people used to entertain themselves before they were transfixed by screens all day long! 

In the spirit of the read-along I decided that I would do an activity each month relating to the book we're reading that month. Because it was easier than shooting a bear, smoking our own meat, or making cheese, we decided to make and dress up paper dolls. Here they are before they were dressed:

Benji (who is three) loved dressing them up. He then took it a step further and covered the entire thing with multi coloured Quality Street wrappers and stickers and made it into a birthday card for his Grandma. Who am I to argue with such creativity? 

I loved this book and I'm really looking forward to reading the next one! Also apologies that I've not been round and commented on everyone's posts yet - sick kids this month have made everything take six times longer than it should!


  1. I think Mary may have seemed perfect in Laura's young mind. Though, of course, the books are fictionalized autobiographies, but still. I think it's easy when you're younger and wild to make your calmer older sister be the "perfect" one. :)

  2. I love that you paired a craft with this book, Bex! See, you really ARE the creative one of the two of us! Though I did much crafting with my children when they were young! I had completely overlooked the "whose baby is prettier" argument! That was fun! :)

  3. I've finally read it! And I loved every moment. I adored the window into pioneer life, into how their food was made and prepared, and all the work that went into the simplest of objects for the house. I think my favourite chapter was the girls' first ever trip into town, seeing the lake for the first time and being wonderstruck by all the things in the store. And I think Mary seemed like a quieter child, but still with a streak of naughtiness in her - Laura definitely mentions that they both had a capability to misbehave sometimes! Roll on Little House on the Prairie, I want more! :)

    1. I loved that chapter, too, especially collecting rocks. That's something I did as a child. The relationship between Mary and Laura is interesting, isn't it? I never had siblings, so I get tickled by Laura's resentment of Mary's good behavior! Glad you enjoyed this one. I just finished reading. Farmer Boy and loved it! It's my favorite thus far.

    2. I did too - pretty ones with interesting lines and patterns or in unusual shapes. I'm glad to hear Farmer Boy is good; my set is missing that one so I've just ordered it. Hopefully I can read two or three together in April and finally catch up with the other readalongers! :)

    3. Of course! :) Take it at your own pace and you can always link up to reviews at the monthly introductory posts!

  4. great blog and post! guys you definitely must visit Paris! i've just returned from there and it is an exciting place no less! you just simply gotta go there!