After reading The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure a couple of years ago, I made a promise to myself that someday soon, I would revisit the “Little House” series and read the original nine books as an adult. My own copies (the yellow bound paper back as well as Scholastic Book Club special editions) were long gone but after coming across a beautiful full color edition in my local Barnes & Noble it seemed like as good a time as any to hold my own Summer Reading Program where I would reconnect with Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie and baby Grace. So for the next few weeks, my usual BBB post will center around the Little House series and in the end…if you are lucky…I will have a very special bonus surprise for you all!
So, allow me to begin these posts by talking about the first book in the Little House series, Little House in the Big Woods. I remember reading this for the first time when I was eight-years-old and it taking at least a week for me to finish it. It took me a day this time around, which says a lot about the speed at which I read in adulthood. (I thought I was a pretty fast reader back then, but evidently not!) The one problem that I always had with Little House in the Big Woods is that it didn’t correspond to anything in the TV series. Now, Little House fans are a unique bunch that are divided into two distinct factions: book people and TV people. Technically, I fall into the latter category, but I enjoyed many aspects of the book as well. I just kinda liked the show better and this made Big Woods a little tedious.
I am proud to say that upon the re-read, I enjoyed it even more than I did as a kid, but ironically, the chapters that most resonated with me before are still the ones I prefer. I love the scene where Laura gets her beloved rag doll Charlotte for Christmas after only having a corn cob in a handkerchief to play with and the big dance at her Grandmother’s house after the winter sugaring season. When I was little, I always imagined that grandma’s house must have been huge compared to Laura’s if there was enough room for dancing, but now being older and wiser, I highly doubt that was the case. I suspect everything looked bigger in Laura’s eyes as it does to all children.
Wilder’s writing style is simple. It offers a kids’ eye view of the world in which she grew up and I like that. There is no room for historical analysis. She doesn’t speculate about how difficult life must be for Ma and Pa, how poor they were or the lack of life’s luxuries. It is a pure account of Laura’s early years in Pepin, Wisconsin before the family moves further west and into less stable territory. If you haven’t read it for a while, check it out. You’ll be glad to reconnect to a simpler time.