Monday, October 7, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods was a novel that I adored as a child. Accompanied with simple black and white sketches and a little girl growing up in the woods, it completely attracted me and my wild imagination. I read the book repeatedly in my childhood; at first it was read to me by my mother, later on we read it together, and further along than that I read it on my own. Once, just after my college graduation, I read it on my own but it has otherwise been years and I found myself desiring a trip to the big woods.

My mother owned the full set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books but they are yellowed and old; I was tempted to ask her to bring them down to Virginia but I held off because I was frightened of ruining the books. They're antiques, older than me, and I want them to last as long as they can. Having them shift about from one state to another might have been too much for them. 

When my parents visited during the summer they gave me a couple of belated birthday gifts, one such gift being the Barnes and Noble edition of the first five books. I was ecstatic, it worked perfectly, and I quickly devoured the first book.

I lugged the huge book to and from work, reading it on the train and bus, and while it was sitting at my desk nearly everyone from my job commented on the book or discussed their own memories of it. I, like a content cat, smiled smuggly and continued reading my lovely copy.

Now that I'm inching towards thirty I have an entirely new appreciation of this book. The language is simple and specifically for story telling and yet, with our modern day so different than how it was during the childhood of this book's author, you are easily taken away to a different time. The day to day activities of the family and how life was living in a tiny cabin in the woods seems simple yet hard. The children had never been to a town, they didn't know what was beyond the woods, and now in today's day and age no one bats an eye at a child who takes trips across the country. The children received candy and mittens for Christmas and were overjoyed; in the current day that would be utter blasphemy for any child. But besides this, children were expected to obey their parents and do quite a bit of manual labor while the mother of the household did quite a bit of work and the father would rarely leave home without a gun because so many wild animals lived in the woods. 

It seems that the entire year is devoted to preparation for winter and I feel that's certainly an aspect most of America takes for granted (amongst so much more in this book!) Preparing for winter usually consists of checking your chimney or raking leaves but not much else. 

When I was little and still living in New York (Sullivan County, represent!) we would often get horrendous snowstorms that would take away our water or electric. From this book, I found it fun, and I'm sure my mother used it as leverage to keep me happy and calm. It was one huge game of playing Little House in the Big Woods as my mother would melt snow and pour it into the toilets so that we could still use it, or she would cook dinner over the large wood stove we had in the basement by candle light. 

The book covers one year, every season, and you're welcomed into Laura's home and expect to see the table set up for you. You see the excitement of living in the wild woods and also the world of a little girl and her childish innocence.

After all of these years, those snowy nights are still something magical and memorable to me, made even more so due to these books. It's a quick read and certainly family friendly. Whether you are 27, like myself, or you are reading this to your child it is certainly worth the read. Now that I own the first five books I can't wait to read the rest of them--something I've never done before.

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