|Harper and Row|
Laura Ingalls loves her home in Wisconsin and loves living with her Ma, Pa, Mary, and Baby Carrie in their log house in the Big Woods. Her grandparents, aunts, and uncles live just a few miles away and it is easy to take the horses and wagon there in a day. Laura is a bright child who is a little more mischievous than her beautiful blond sister Mary, but knows she must mind her Ma and Pa. Living in the 1870s, she is entertained by playing with corn husk dolls and a Christmas present of a rag doll. It was a simpler time, but one that had its own challenges. There were bears and panthers in the Woods, a quickly changing world with new machines, and her family had to make a living off of their land. Laura's straightforward and easy to read style makes it easy to see why this is a classic.
Historically, this book provides information on how they made straw hats, certain foods, remedies for stings, how to load a rifle and how they made bullets. It provides great insight into things we don't do any more. It also shows us how the family dynamic worked back then. I loved learning how Ma braided hats and made hulled corn and loved hearing Pa's stories to the children.
Being that this is set in the past, prejudices do come out. In this one, they are not as overt as in later books, but I know the series itself is often chastised because of the treatment of Native Americans. Pa makes a remark about playing "Indian" in this book and sings about a "darkey" at one point. When I was a child I did not notice this and when my parents read it to me, they read it as is and did not talk about prejudice in the past. I will say I love the series and it is a childhood favorite of mine, but if I read it in a classroom or to children, I may mention that there are words and ideas that we know are not true now, that they did not know back then. I do this when talking about Martin Luther King Jr and The Civil Rights movement and reading books that talk about the hate. I don't think the books need to be censored and I think children are smart enough to understand that times change.
This is one of my favorites in the series and the one I have reread the most. I think about how different life was back then, but also how things like love and family are timeless. I think sisterly squabbles and Laura worrying about her brown hair make this a read that children even today can relate to. As an adult reading it, I love hearing about the past, hearing about how they live off the land and could be self-sufficient. I love seeing the love of the family and their joy in the simple things of life. Laura is my favorite character in this one and I love how she is even honest about her childhood behavior. 5 cups of cocoa!