Review of Little House in the Big Woods

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December 13, 2015 by Beth - I SNIFF BOOKS blog

cover for little house in the big woodsLittle House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and illustrated by Garth Williams. First published in 1932 by Harper. Revised edition, with illustrations by Garth Williams, published in 1953.

I really cannot recall if I read the Little House series as a young girl. I have very vague memories of sometimes watching the television show.

Anyway. The Little House series popped back up on my radar when I read Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom (review here). Nordstrom was director of Harper Books for Boys and Girls (now simply known as HarperCollins Children’s Books) from 1940 – 1973. So it goes without saying that Nordstrom had a MAJOR role in publishing some pretty AMAZING children’s books that have become classics and are still in-print, including, OF COURSE, the Little House series.

From what I recall from Dear Genius, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a rare breed of a writer on the Harper Books’ roster — her drafts/manuscripts were written in long-hand and were, for the most part, accepted as-is. There was also much FANGIRLING by Nordstrom when an unpublished Little House manuscript (now known as The First Four Years) was discovered. I think the fangirling that ensued was probably on level if say another Harry Potter manuscript was uncovered.

Anyway. Nordstrom is a literary rockstar and if she is getting all fangirly for a book/series then I need to give it a try. So I bought a copy of Little House in the Big Woods many months ago. I figured today would be the day to give it a go.

Well. I did not get very far. In fact I abandoned the book on page 15. Don’t Mary and Laura look adorable wearing their days of yore outfits while playing ball? But wait. That’s no ordinary ball. Nope. I guess all the kids back in days of yore had played with with balls made from inflated pig’s bladders. Yes. Pig bladders.

little house in the big woods - pages 14 and 15

Now I will fully disclose that I am mostly vegan (cheese is my weakness) so MAYBE that had something to do with me being so turned off by seeing Mary and Laura having recreational fun with an inflated pig’s bladder. But there’s been other stuff too. In just the first fifteen pages Pa has already shot and killed a deer — then of course there followed much description of the butchering and smoking process. Pa attempted to shoot a bear but missed. And then when Uncle Henry shows up with Aunt Polly’s butcher knife, Pa decides that it is Butchering Time so he fetches Ma’s butcher knife and they slaughter the pig.

Granted I have most definitely not given the book a fair chance, but I am absolutely puzzled on how this series is so popular — I just can’t imagine how any young girl or boy would enjoy reading these first fifteen pages — page sixteen is entirely devoted to describing the roasting (and eating) of the pig’s tail. But Little House in the Big Woods was first published in 1932 so perhaps young children (or better yet, the parents that maybe read these chapter books aloud to their kids) could relate.

MAYBE the book gets better. I shouldn’t sound so doubtful, I’m sure it does. MAYBE there is less description of animal slaughtering and butchering. MAYBE. But I suspect there will be more in the other eight books that follow. But for me, I couldn’t push through, I just can’t read this kind of descriptive writing.


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