Saturday, April 15, 2006

Nostalgic Reads

A few days ago, I finished re-reading my latest random-book selection, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie (1935). I read all of the Little House books when I was a kid, and would read the first of the series, Little House in the Big Woods over and over again. That one was always my favorite because it went into such detail about their everyday life: how they smoked meat, how they stored food, how they did laundry, built the house, and traveled in the snow. Little House on the Prairie has that same level of detailed description, and I liked it just as much this time around as I did the last time I read it, which was at least 15 years ago.

Interestingly enough, I could never stand the TV series. As a kid, I'd watch almost everything, but not Little House, not Hogan's Heroes and not MASH. The Little House show was b-o-r-i-n-g, and everything I liked about the books was sacrificed for episodic drama and lame character development. This book has almost no dialogue, and most of the pages are spent in describing the day-to-day life of making a homestead on the Oklahoma prairie, just south of the Kansas border.

The second best thing about these books are the detailed illustrations done by Garth Williams in the 1950s. Williams is the same guy who illustrated Charlotte's Web and the other E. B. White books, which are some of my other childhood favorites. Williams actually traveled the route that Wilder and her family took and his illustrations show the level of research that he undertook to create an accurate description of their life.

When I was a kid, I also liked the Little House books because they were just like grown-up books with chapters, and most of them were relatively thick. As an adult, the fast-reader in me likes to be able to say that I finished a 335 page book in less than two days.


milk and cake said...

i like to blame little house on the prairie for my move. it was those books that totally made me fall in love with the west, and the idea that moving was a great idea. the other week when i was in nebraska i actually bought this great cookbook that shows you how to recreate the things they ate in the books!

woolf said...

I too was in LOVE with Little House. I would read them over and over, and when I was involved in the Book-It reading program (which now I see it as Pizza Hut's way of getting business), I didn't understand why my mom said I couldn't just read them again and again to get the required number of pages. As for the show, I liked it, but was always disgusted when the shows would focus on Pa, with Laura and Mary as mere extras. Lately I've begun watching them (I'm an unemployed student with cable) again, and I'm again disgusted--though there are few good episodes. One in particular is when the Ingalls family loses their only son. Laura thinks it's her fault, so she climbs up a mountain (are there mountains in Minnesota?) to ask God to take her instead, and a nice old man (an angel, we are led to believe) convinces her it is not her fault. One I hate is when the Ingalls family goes CAMPING! Why the heck would they go camping? The show always pretended the town of Walnut Grove would accept black people, when there is one part, I think, in either Little Town or Happy Golden Years when Pa is in a talent show and paints his face black and dances and sings. Even as a kid who knew nothing about race I was a little uncomfortable about that scene.