Thursday, March 9, 2017

Book Love: The Little House series

A long long time ago, I read the Little House books.  I remember my Mom reading the first few to us, probably on long car rides or after lunch during our home schooling years.  Maybe that's where my love of reading after lunch comes from?  I've been doing it regularly for years and years and years, maybe it goes back 20 years to my grade school days, spent drawing around my Mom's rocking chair while she read to us.

I don't think she read this whole series out loud to us because I distinctly remember my older sister and I racing to get through the later books and then fighting over The First Four Years because we were both ready to finish it the same night.  I had hid it under my pillow, thinking that would claim it as mine for the night.  Turns out, my sister won that argument, probably because the books were actually hers so I had to settle for finishing second.

A few months ago I texted that same sister and asked if I could borrow the whole series.  The same books we had fought over more than 20 years ago.  I hadn't read them since despite having fond memories of them (other than that fight and having to settle for second).

I put off reading them for months because my to-read list tends to hover around 30, no matter how fast I'm reading (30+ books done for the year and I still have 30+ on there).  But earlier this year I finally decided it was time to start.  And then I knocked through the 9 book series in about 4 weeks (as well as 10 other books).  They are written for ~10 year olds so if I wasn't reading anything else, I could get through a book a day.

Reading the books as an adult was a bit different than reading as a kid.  It was still fascinating reading about how people lived and getting a little more insight into the "west" (midwest) being settled.   I noticed things I didn't when I was 10 and also could appreciate a little more all that it took to live, all the work. 

All they did in a given day was mind-boggling.  All the food prep and storage and making butter and digging a well and building houses (and then another, and another...they moved a lot).  Sewing clothes, ironing, washing taking all day.  The work was endless and exhausting just reading about!

It was a little startling reading Farmer Boy, the book about Almanzo's (Laura's eventual husband) childhood in New York State.  His family, with a full house and huge barn of animal, seem down right wealthy in comparison to the Ingalls.  I don't know that I noticed that so much as a kid, and how, maybe, the Ingalls could have had a different life if they stayed put a little more?

Time moves at different paces in different books.  The Long Winter gets a whole book.  That one was the toughest to read, as they were starving their way through a horrible winter (no matter how cold I can get at least I never wake up with my bed covered in snow!).  Then Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years would skip through a whole season in just a paragraph or two.

It was tough reading about the locuses coming, about how they kept borrowing to pay for houses and then crops didn't work out, reading about losing their dog (and I'm not an animal person by any means!).  You share in their joys like candy at Christmas and dances with family in the big woods.  It seems so real (and it was, although this is a novelized version of true events).  Their lives are so different from the lives we lead now, in almost every respect, and it made me appreciate all that we have.  

I really really enjoyed rereading all these books.  Other than scattered, brief memories, I don't have a strong childhood tie to them and I still enjoyed them as an adult!  They were fascinating and interesting and made me appreciate a roof over my head, plenty of food, and all the appliances and conveniences we have!  I strongly recommend to anyone with an interest in history or even just some childhood nostalgia.  They are super easy to get through for adults and I hope to share them with our kids some day. 

Additional reading:
I just added Pioneer Girl (Laura's autobiography) to my to-read list and my sister also gave me Laura which I intend to read soon.  I read The Wilder Life a few years ago and intend to reread in the next few months.  For something much shorter: an article on EW on 15 Things we Learned from Little House on the Prairie, in honor of Laura's 150th birthday (which just so happened to be while I was reading these!).

Have you read these books?  Either as an adult or as a kid?  Slightly appaled that Laura & Almanzo started "dating" when she was 15 and he was 25?  Wish you got to play with a pig's bladder?  Want to taste maple syrup and snow?

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