Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reader's Diary #820- Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House in the Big Woods

My daughter is almost at the age I was when a teacher first introduced me to Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books. I remember loving them, so I figured I'd walk down memory lane while introducing my own daughter to the series.

It turns out that I remembered very little. I was somewhat surprised to discover how much of a focus was on the father. Though she tells it in the 3rd person, Laura writes about him with such love and devotion. It made us reflect a little on our own relationship, though the dad is not someone I'd aspire to be. On the one hand, the father is tender, telling stories and playing the fiddle to his girls each night. On the other, he could be strict and used corporal punishment. (Though I explained to her that times were quite different, my daughter still thought it ridiculously hypocritical that he strapped Laura for hitting her sister.)

I was also in awe over their skills and resourcefulness and felt somewhat ashamed over my lack of practical skills. They built their own house, butchered and smoked meat, collected wild honey, collected maple syrup, made cheese, ground their own flour and so on. As a child, I could have related to more of this, I'm sure, as my own parents were hunters, fisherfolk, carpenters, farmers, cooks and so on. Unfortunately, I learned precious little of it. If there was an apocalypse and I had to rely on my own personal skills to survive, I'm afraid I'd be zombie food. I need to find me some lessons. How did I become so useless?

After reading the book, I looked to see if there were any Little House on the Prairie episodes on YouTube (Little House in the Big Woods is the first in the series, LHotP comes after). There were, but friends were amused to see that I checked them out at My wife and I often check that website to help us decide whether or not a movie is appropriate for our kids. They do have recommended ages, that sometimes match with the ratings, sometimes don't, but more useful to us is the way they breakdown the movies, giving a point by point list of positive messages, questionable language, violence, sex, scary stuff, drug and alcohol references, and even consumerism. We decide what we're comfortable with our kids, given their level of maturity and our own values, watching. Yet why would I need advice on Little House on the Prairie? Isn't that a little overprotective? In my defense, I never watched the show as a child. I'm quite sure I would have been allowed, but I just never did. And as enjoyable and educational as Little House in the Big Woods was, there were more than a few moments that we had to stop and discuss: the aforementioned corporal punishment, for one, but there were also a few racist things. Rest assured, I took them as teachable moments and we had lots of great discussion around these topics. And yes, I'll let her watch the TV show.


Loni said...

I love the website. I'm going to start using it.

John Mutford said...

Loni: I've found it especially useful for all those 80s movies I used to love as a kid, but didn't remember sufficiently to decide whether or not it is appropriate in today's context. By the way, they also do video games, music and books.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I remember reading all the Little House books around your daughter's age as well, and I also recall almost no details about them. I don't think my Offspring ever read them though.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: At least I still liked it. I've revisited a few other books (and TV shows and movies) from my childhood that I just can't fathom what the appeal might have been.