I haven’t read this book since I was, I don’t remember actually, but I was much younger than I am now. When it came up as a possible July title for the Book Hoarders Anonymous Book Club, I was excited to pick it up again and see what I thought of it as an adult. Here’s the discussion post if you’re interested.
First, as a child, I loved this book. I read it over and over thinking how wonderful it would be to live in a log cabin, days to run free in the prairie, chasing animals, and sitting nights by the fire. As I got older, that stopped appealing which is probably why this book moved to the back of my bookshelf and was replaced by fantasy books. Hello Tolkien! Re-reading it now, I had an entirely different reaction, and not surprisingly, a more adult reaction.
Second, a few things that stood out to me. When Charles Ingalls decides to move his family out west, he packs up the wagon and heads out. There was no family discussion at all except for his wife Caroline saying something like, “If that’s what you think is best Charles.” Of course. Insert big eye roll here. His wanting to be away from everyone and everything was something I couldn’t identify with. Living in a city with close proximity to people and services, I love the idea of getting away from it all, but I don’t want to live away from it all. I can appreciate his adventurous spirit though. However, something about moving your family to the middle of nowhere with no help or contact with family, or any other people, strikes me as foolish. But that’s what people did and that’s how the plains were changed. I won’t get into the implications this had on the Native American tribes living in this area at the time. Obviously, my thoughts on this are very different then they were as a child, if I even had any thoughts about this as a child which I probably didn’t. I was happy to see that Charles was not quite as close-minded as Caroline though in his thinking even if he was still off the mark. If you want more on this, Jillian at A Room of One’s Own has some interesting thoughts about it. (Side note: Thanks for the link in your review Alison. Gave me a new way to view a story I’m familiar with.)
Now, the story. You know what, it held up for me. I read it on a Sunday afternoon curled up on my couch remembering all the wonderful things about this book and why I loved it so much as girl. There’s adventure, change, a tight knit family, and it has a homespun, charming quality to it. One part I forgot about was Jack the family dog. Don’t worry this is not a spoiler because it happens in chapter two. As the family is crossing the river, Jack gets lost when he has to swim for it himself. Why they don’t put him in the wagon baffles me but they didn’t. It get depressing for a while here and I was a miffed at Charles then remembered that Jack did make it across the river and joins up with the Ingalls again who are nothing but happy to see him. As a dog person, this was a little heartwarming moment. Now, Laura is my favorite but I was surprised that I didn’t remember Mary as being so quiet. Yes, Laura gets in trouble, is somewhat jealous of her well-behaved, older sister but I didn’t remember her as so meek and mild. It’s probably because I identified more with Laura and probably never thought much about Mary at all.
As I was reading, visions of the TV show kept popping in my head. No matter how many times it was mentioned that Charles had a beard, I couldn’t picture it because in my head, Charles Ingalls is Michael Landon and he didn’t have a beard. I wish that didn’t happen but I does. I should admit that I was a huge fan of the show as a girl so the two are pretty well intertwined for me.
I enjoyed this book, laughed at it, remembered some sweet things about it, and was glad I took a day to immerse myself it in. It was a complete comfort read and I remembered why these books were a staple for me. You won’t find lyrical prose here. You won’t find an amazing plot. You will find some heartfelt moments of a close and loving family and an adventure of a lifetime for a young girl.
For those not familiar with the series, the books in order are:
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
On the Banks of Plum Creek
By the Shores of the Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
The Happy Golden Years
The First Four Years
There is also one book, Farmer Boy, which is based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband’s, childhood.
Thoughts – Little House on the Prairie
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrated by Garth Williams