The My First Little House (on the Prairie) books
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrated by Renée Graef in the spirit of the original Little House illustrator, Garth Williams
Children's books review by P.J. Rooks
Let's hear it for Pa!
Here's a guy who'd drag his wife and three kids, one of whom was blind, out into the middle of an Indian-infested, copperhead-riddled wilderness, dump them off in the hostile sun, and drive off.
Most of us these days would call that child endangerment, perhaps, or maybe even domestic abuse, and would spend the hot, hungry hours making plans to return to civilization, find the courthouse, and file the appropriate papers.
Back then, however, it was simply known as relocation and probably wouldn't have been suitable grounds for divorce. Maybe this is why Laura Ingalls Wilder, who spent a lifetime cheerfully chronicling the ways of the pioneers, grew up to be such a feminist.
But probably not. Her self-assurance and belief in all women-kind probably had more to do with inheriting a free and independent spirit from the trail-blazing ways of her parents, enjoying the warmth of family and community, and fostering an optimism that regarded each of life's little offerings and simple pleasures with a very strong dose of gratitude -- the same traits, of course, that pulse through her many books.
And so it is in sheepish violation of my "dorky things I promised myself I'd never do to my own kid" rule, that I'm writing this whole-hearted endorsement of the My First Little House Books series, a collection of twelve delightfully illustrated Little House on the Prairie books geared for the four- to eight-year-old set.
What was your favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder story as a kid? Did you like the one where they poured syrup in the snow to make a winter treat? You'll find a nice version of it with down-sized text and up-sized images in Sugar Snow. Want to know how the women of old did up their hair to make those fancy ringlets? Going to Town will tell you. Or maybe you'd rather see what the pioneers did for fun.
It's fun to read these with a little one because it opens the door on such a new and different perspective and asks the child to imagine themselves in an unfamiliar circumstance. You can spend a long car ride, for example, pondering together what life might have been like in the days before grocery stores, cars, and cell phones.
The many adventures of Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, Carrie and their good ol' bulldog, Jack, are a great introduction to the pioneer heritage and a warm way to share time with your child.
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