Sunday, February 8, 2015

Little House

Yesterday was Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday. I loved her books, starting in third grade. When I was in that grade, and I guess age 8, my family moved from one state to another. In the new school, on my first day there, when it was time for the teacher to read a story out loud to us, she read the next chapter in the book she had already been reading to the class. It was the chapter in On the Banks of Plum Creek where mean, stuck-up Nellie Olson gets her comeuppance by getting leeches on her legs in the creek and screaming and being horrified. My classmates shouted with laughter.

Later (I don't know if it was the same day), we went to the school library where we could each check out a book. We sat down at tables and the teacher told us that the quietest table could go first to pick out their books. We all tried to be quiet, but she chose a different table than mine. The girl next to me said, "Oh, they'll get all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books!" I can't remember when I got one to read on my own--I may even have previously read Little House in the Big Woods without knowing who the author was--but from about that time, I read her books through and through.

In older grades, when my mom would take me to the public library, I usually checked out multiple books, maybe six or eight. I would pick out ones I thought I might like, then get one or two of the Little House books to re-read. Even as late as seventh and eighth grade, a friend and I would play "pioneers," which simply consisted of pretending to be pioneers. We may have been influenced by some other books, like Caddie Woodlawn or On to Oregon, but our primary ideas of pioneer life came from the Little House series.

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By the way, I did not really like the TV series that Michael Landon created. It wandered far, far from the books, and was basically a TV show where the characters happened to have the same names as characters in the books. Also, it was emotionally overwrought and manipulative in ways that Laura Ingalls Wilder's writing never was.

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