Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Little House, Big Influence

By D'Ann Mateer

So I had a post about a children’s book all set and ready to go.


Scheduled to post.

Then my husband took me to see Little House on the Prairie, the Musical and I knew I had to write about the Ingalls family instead.

My set of Little House on the Prairie books came on my 8th birthday. That’s a long time ago now, but I still have them. I still read them.

(Yes, this is my actual set of books. Can you see how well-loved they are?)

Yes, you read that right. I still read them.

While the new stage musical didn’t make me jump up and cheer, it reminded me why I love these books. It’s because they’ve been with me through every stage of life. I meet Laura as a young girl. I followed her through the first four angst-filled years of her marriage. But the hold these books have on me is about more than following Laura’s life through the pages. It’s Mary and her incredible goodness. It’s Ma and her amazing wisdom. It’s Pa who never gives up and always has a song, in spite of the circumstances. It’s Mr. and Mrs. Boast and their hospitality and generosity. Ida’s and Mary Powers’ and Minnie’s undying friendship with Laura. Almanzo’s faithfulness. Mr. Edwards’ spunk.

I still pick up The Long Winter when life is stressful and I need a reminder that even when life is at its worst, the snow will eventually thaw, spring will eventually come. I reread These Happy Golden Years when I need to remember not the wildly romantic notions of young love, but the kind that comes slowly, in the midst of hard work and real life.

I understand that while these books are based on life, they are fiction. But somewhere in the blending of what was and what Laura Ingalls Wilder wished would be, a picture of truth emerged. Of wisdom to be gleaned. From good example and bad. Through suffering and joy. I’ve become a part of the Ingalls family over the years. Or maybe they’ve become part of mine.

What children’s (or middle grade or young adult) books still speak to you as an adult? Do you still reread books from your childhood?


  1. Oh, D'Ann I had the same set. I wish I still had it. Just looking at those yellow spines brought back all sorts of memories. I think my favorite of all is still Little House on the Prairie. I just loved that story and still do.

  2. D'Ann, I never read these books. I know, that's kind of unbelievable. I never heard of them until the show came on. And I loved that show. My husband and I just watched Michael Landon's biography last night, and I was thinking again how much I loved those stories and the characters (even though I know they aren't all the same characters from the books). I think I'm going to have to find these books and read them one of these days.

  3. I wish you still had your yellow set, too, Lisa! They are impossible to find these days! I never can decide if my favorite is Little Town on the Prairie or These Happy Golden Years.

    Suzie! FInd them and read them! They won't take you any time at all and they are such great stories. My 19 year old has pulled out her set again and says she's finally going to read the later ones. We'll see if that actually happens. :)

  4. I never read them all either, so I fell in love via the tv show. I intend to get to the Laura Wilder home in ?? South Dakota maybe?

    But I may have to settle, for now, for a LIW day at our local historical museum. They do Civil War reenactments, Celtic festivals, the works... and this year, something new. A Laura Ingalls Wilder Weekend, with the promise of a visitor from the TV show. Maybe Nellie? Whatever happened to her?

    I really can't think of any books from my youth that I have re read. Certainly thinking a lot more about it after this week! Secret Garden, some Nancy Drews. I think once I read Gone with the Wind at 12 or 13 I was onto historical romance and never looked back.

    I intend to get my granddaughter started on the Little House books as soon as she is ready. I made -hand stitched- a prairie dress with bonnet for her mom (age 7 or so). I've been searching for where ever it went to...
    I'm afraid I'm going to push little Grace into my interests. But books? Can that be a bad thing? (she loves books better than toys anyway)

  5. For me, it's Anne of Green Gables. I just gave a set to my niece for her 10th birthday, and we're going to start reading them together this summer. I can hardly wait!

  6. Heather- that's a great idea. Read them together. Makes me want to go up into the Maritimes. If you haven't been there, they are just as beautiful as can be.

  7. Yes, read them with your granddaughter, Debra! What fun it would be for the both of you! And what a fun thing for your historical museum to do! I love those kinds of events!

    I know, Heather. I reread all the Anne books, too, as well as L.M. Montgomery's Emily books. In fact, I had to decide between the two for this post. OK, so that's not really true! I had a dozen or so books from my childhood and I STILL reread that I had to chose from!!! My kids weren't (and still aren't) big readers, so I relive children's literature on my own!

  8. We had the same set at our house, too, D'Ann! The books are at my brother's house now, so I bought a new set for my kids. They spines have a gingham look to them and they're cute, but they don't instill the same nostalgic feelings in me.

    My favorite of the set was always Farmer Boy. I don't know if that says anything about me, liking the one that's not about Laura the best :-) These Happy Golden Years was my second favorite... What treasures those books are. Thanks so much for the delightful post!

  9. D'Ann, I loved these books and the tv series. I must have borrowed them from the library because I haven't seen them among my children's book collection. Being an Aussie, they also taught me about US geography and history :-)

  10. I remember reading these books by the light of my electric blanket control! We didn't have heat in the upstairs of my family's farmhouse, so we had electric blankets, and I would "illegally" read past my allotted bedtime...I so loved these books! That also might explain why my eyesight isn't that great...

  11. My daughter has that set, too, Susie. It's cute in it's own way, but I love my yellow covers. And while I read the first four books aloud to my kids, the only one they really remember was Farmer Boy! I do love that book, too. I always wished I knew more about what happened to Almanzo's family.

    What a great way to learn about America, Narelle!

  12. I had the yellow set, too! Although I didn't have the box because my mom bought my books one at a time. But the spines were creased and cracked, the covers bent from multiple readings. My favorite was These Happy Golden Years, because that's the one in which Laura fell in love. Ahhh! And I adored the illustrations by Garth Williams. Beautiful!

  13. I feel like the odd duck, here! I had the same set, same illustrations, but mine were covered in blue, in a blue box. I still have them, well-loved and quite worn. The stories, especially the earlier ones, sparked MANY days of playing Laura Ingalls in my brown calico quilted middy dress and boots!
    I baked biscuits in our family's woodstove oven, and made all sorts of strange meals. And to this day I want to live in a dugout. Not a soddy, mind you, because from what I understand the snakes would crawl through the walls and ceilings, and that would put me over the edge.
    I'm going to have to get these out this summer and reread them, I think.

  14. Yes, Jen, I love the romance as it buds between Laura and Almanzo. Very understated, but very sweet.

    Niki! I've never seen the blue box! Years ago a friend of mine gave me The LIttle House Cookbook. Of course I've never cooked out of it, but it makes interesting reading. Maybe I should let you borrow it!

  15. I was an adult before I became acquainted with the Little House books.

    Instead, wherever we moved, I quickly wore out my library cards borrowing the stories of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, etc.

    To me, Anne Shirley was a take-charge girl. She was a nobody without a home who knew Marilla didn't want her and yet she didn't let it get her down. I admired her so much. Her imagination. Her gumption. And yes, even her knack for getting into trouble.

    And I know I'm not the only one. :)

    However, as an adult, I became (still am) a fan when I saw the TV series of Little House on the Prairie.

    Thanks D'Ann. Great post.


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