Saturday, January 2, 2016

Little House in the Big Woods

Title - Little House in the Big Woods
Author - Laura Ingalls Wilder
First Published - 1932

This book basically describes one year (4 seasons) of living in the Big Woods of Wisconsin in the 1870s. It is actually a fictionalised story of Laura's life.

Laura and her family lived in a cabin about 7 miles north of Pepin on Lake Pepin in western Wisconsin. Lake Pepin is actually part of the Mississippi river (and forms part of the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota) but there is NO mention of the Mississippi in this book at all.

The story starts at the beginning of winter and gives lots of details about pioneer life through winter, spring, summer and fall. I especially loved how Laura describes in detail how a lot of the food was prepared and stored. 

My first thought on reading this book was that is was clearly written for children. And then I thought, well, of course it WAS written for children and if I did read this back when I was a child, I do not remember it. So I continued reading, It was kind of hard to read a book that has clearly treating me, the reader, as if I were a child. But eventually I got so caught up in all the details that I forgot that I was being treated like a child. 

This was Ma's working week.

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

The only days that were described in any details in the book were Baking days, and Churning days, because these involved food and were Lauras favourites.

Sundays were also described in detail as well. Laura hated Sundays. The children could not yet read so they could only talk to their dolls (but not play with them) or listen to Ma reading to them from the bible. Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest. Christmas was described in detail as well. 

Other activities described in detail, were usually in connection with Pa's work outside.

The details of making bullets, loading the gun, making maple syrup, milking the cow, curing the pork, beef, venison and other meats for storage, collecting honey from an old hollow tree, and also the threshing machine that threshed the wheat after the harvest and before the winter.

It seemed that Pa had the most interesting jobs in Laura's eyes. But they were probably interesting because as a girl, Laura was not permitted to actually do them. She could only stand by and watch.

There was very little of Laura's personality in this book. She slaps her older sister Mary once, and is suitably punished. She is also jealous of Mary's golden blonde hair. Laura has ordinary brown hair. Laura believes herself to be ugly just because she doesn't have blonde hair. The feeling gets worse every time a visitor pays attention to Mary and says nothing to Laura. I got a little tired of Laura's frequent whining about how ugly she felt and how she was always comparing herself to Mary.

All in all this was a pretty sanitised childhood. There was no bear attacks, although there were some close calls mentioned. Noone died from any disease or epidemics. 

I have a lot of questions about some of the activities and things described in this book, and I will be researching them for future posts. 

I read this book for the LHOTP challenge for 2016 where we shall be reading one book per month. See my Little House Read-Along page at the top of this blog. Other reviews can be read here and here.


  1. Ah, I have only read the first chapter and already agree with you on so many points you make. It is DEFINITELY written for children! I am rather happy, 'cause my one granddaughter, for whom I thought this writing might be too tough for her reading level, I now feel it is just right. I will be sending her this set next month as a result! :) Nice review!

  2. BTW, I linked to this review in my Women's Classic Literature Event Check-In #1 posting today! :) ( That may drive some visitors to your site! :)

  3. What I like about book one is that Laura speaks to the "childish conscience" in all of us, particularly when we were children b/c we thought like children. She recognizes her selfishness and disobedience of her childhood, and she talks about it honestly, like we can all relate. Even a child reading the book should be able to say, "Oh, yeah. I thought like that, too."

    1. Very philosophical. I hadn't thought of looking at it this way.