Little House in the Big Woods by: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Source: Owned forever.
Wolves and panthers and bears roamed the deep Wisconsin woods in the 1860’s. Still, Laura Ingalls’ father preferred to live miles away from the nearest neighbors. So Pa built a snug cabin for Ma, Laura, Mary and Baby Carrie. He hunted and trapped and farmed. Ma made her own cheese and sugar. All night long, the wind howled lonesomely, but Pa played his fiddle and sang, keeping the family safe and cozy.
Doesn’t that synopsis seem badass?
I freaking loved the Little House books when I was a kid. As I still own the original set that my mom bought for me back in the long, long ago it’s evident just looking at the books how much I loved them.
But now, I have a three year old girl – in my effort to START YOUNG! we’ve started reading chapter books together every night. Her Father reads the picture books that I loathe so much.
So, Little House in the Big Woods was the first chapter book that we ever read together. [I am April’s attempt at sentimentality.] We snuggle into bed together and I open the book and read the first sentence:
Okay, fantastic, just like I remember.
But as I continued reading chapter after chapter aloud to The Girl, night after night I was struck by something. I was bored out of my skull. At the beginning of the book we don’t even get to see Laura’s character. (At the end she starts to get willful and I can’t over-emphasize how happy I was to get a little sass out of Laura.) It’s Pa makes bullets this and Ma gives us baths that… even the famous chapter on butchering the pig wasn’t all that interesting. (Yay! Crispy pig tail and a pig bladder balloon!)
The stories that Pa shares on winter nights with Laura and Mary aren’t that interesting, even the one where Pa confronts the two bears (spoiler, one’s not a bear). It’s just… dull.
It’s not until nearly the end of the book that things become palatable. The visit to Lake Pepin, while not fascinating, at least didn’t make me want to claw my eyes out to relieve the boredom. Further, the chapter where Laura’s cousin steps on a nest of yellow jackets and has to be wrapped like a mummy (not even to mention Pa’s reaction to the incident on the wagon ride home – “Served the little liar right.”) was the first time I actually had to think. (Unfortunately that thinking was what to leave out – my inner ACLU intervened and I censored nothing.)
I have a friend, who before making the decision to stay home with her kids, was an elementary educator. To say she was scandalized about my grown-up perspective on Little House in the Big Woods would be a gross understatement.
After seeing my posting showing that I had given it four stars on Goodreads this conversation ensued:
I clearly wasn’t always that bored with this story – the pictures of my battered paperbacks (and the point that I still have them) show that this isn’t the case. So all I can think is that I must have changed, though my primary source for information on living in pre-industrial American is Little House – the churning of butter and slaughtering of pigs no longer holds my interest.
I guess I need more murders in my reading now. But who knows? Mary’s gotta go blind sometime. Maybe the next one will refresh some of my childhood feelings.
What about you, dear Reader? Are there any books that you’ve revisited since your youth that you just can’t stand? Movies? TV shows?