Thursday, July 14, 2011

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Have you ever read a novel that transformed your life? When I turned eight years old, we went to visit my Great-Grandpa and Grandma Kile in Indiana for my birthday. When I was there, I received a wonderful gift from my Grandparents – a four book set of Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, and On the Banks of Plum Creek. I was riveted and sat down and read Little House in the Big Woods that afternoon before I returned home.

These books transformed me into a reader. I became hooked on this series and it led me to explore other books and has kept me reading to this day. For Christmas, Grandpa and Grandma gave me the rest of the series. I would visit them for a week every summer, and I would bring my “Little House” books with me. Grandma Kile liked to read them along with me and we would discuss them. Grandma especially loved Almanzo and Laura’s romance; she was always a lover of a good romance novel. I was obsessed with the “Little House series” and stopped counting on how many times I read it as a youth after eleven times.

My Great-Grandma Kile was a wonderful person that I still miss to this day. She always encouraged me to read and we would go together to the library whenever I came to visit. She liked to share books she had read when she was younger and loved such as books by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women and an Old Fashioned Girl) and Gene Stratton Porter (A Girl of the Limberlost). My one sadness was when her vision became less in her nineties and she had trouble reading like she used too.

My eldest son, Kile, is named after my Great-Grandparents. He was born the last year that Grandma was alive and it was the highlight of that year for her. She was very excited to have a Great-Great Grandson named after both her and Grandpa.

The story has come full circle now that Kile is five years old. I got out Little House in the Big Woods and we have been reading it together every night. He loves it and picks it for one of his two stories every night. My copy is literally falling apart in my hands and still has the loving inscription in the front of the book “To Laura With Love, Happy 8th Birthday (1986) From Great Grandad and Great Grandma Kile.”

It has been awhile since I’ve read Little House in the Big Woods. I still remember many of the stories within it, but I had forgotten what a wonderful book it truly is. It keeps both Kile and I delighted every night. Kile always picks it to read as he says he really wants to know what will happen next. Even my husband Ben has come to admire Pa and his tough ways.

There are many reasons that Little House in the Big Woods is a timeless book. Wilder was able to capture the hardworking life of a pioneer family in a way that is enduring. Laura and Mary Ingalls have experiences that all children can relate too – jealousy, fun, fights, naughtiness etc. The book explains items in a hard working pioneer family life, but also livens things up with tails of bears, panthers, and sleds. There is morality to the tales, but it is never told in a “preachy” way. Through it all, Wilder has an elegant prose, and Garth Williams has wonderful pictures to illustrate the stories.

Kile relates to the stories, especially to the fact that there are three children like his own family and their dog Jack (also the name of our dog). He really likes Pa and his adventures hunting and building items. Reading this book again as an adult, I realize that Pa is a large part of the story, even more so than Laura. He is her hero and a great man. He hunts for food, defends his family, can make anything it seems, and also plays the fiddle and sings his girls to sleep at night. He is a true pioneer man.

My Mom is coming to visit in two weeks and we are taking the kids to Laura Ingalls Wilder Day at Heritage Hill in Green Bay. I can’t wait! I may have to blog about the experience.

Were you a "Little House" fan? What books inspired you to become a reader? Do you have a special person in your life that inspired you to read? Tell your stories in the comments!

This if my fifteenth item for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011.


  1. I was a big, big fan of the Little House books. I read them at least once if not twice a year growing up. I just couldn't get enough of Laura. (My favorite book is probably The Long Winter.) And I loved the romance of Laura and Almanzo!

  2. I was a huge fan of the entire little house series - I even read all of the spin off books about her grandmother, mother, and daughter. They are great reads.

  3. My three sisters and I grew up reading the little house books. We felt a real kinship with the Ingalls girls since there were also 4 of us girls in our family.
    Thanks for sharing the great memories about your great grandparents...what a treasure it is to have had time with them. By the time I was born I didn't have any great-grandparents left to get to know.

  4. I love the Little House series. I enjoyed many books as a child, including Little Women and Little Bear (yes, there's a "Little" theme here).

  5. Yes, I was a Little House fan! I loved her books! Funny, to this day, I still remember the first one more than any of the others! They were all good, but I do remember The Long Winter was a slog, and Shores of Silver Lake was sad because of what happened to Mary. I was already a reader before I discovered her books, but they only cemented that desire in me to read, read, read. I think I was about 8 years old too when I first discovered them. I also really loved reading animal stories, like Albert Payson Terhune's Lad: A Dog (sob!) and the Albert C. Hinkle books. I guess my mother inspired me to read for her father was a publisher and we were all encouraged to read (I'm the youngest of 6 children). My grandfather published the Modern Library books, so we had them at home, growing up. I read many classics because of those books and I am forever grateful to my mother for letting me read to my heart's content!

  6. The Wilder Life, by Wendy McClure, has been written up recently. Sorry I can't find the link.

  7. We had the books (or some of them?) in a Swedish translation and when I found them in the attic when I was maybe ten or so, I started reading them. The show was on TV in the afternoons at the time, and I used to watch it after school. Great books! Have tried looking for them recently, as a matter of fact, as I'd love to re-read them. :)