I remember trying to read these when I was young but I found them boring and gave up after reading Little House on the Prairie. I enjoyed the TV series with Michael Landon better. K1 took to these books and has read and re-read them over and over. During our last vacations we've been listening to them on CD and I enjoyed them. Judith Warner's recollections of her childhood reading them are here.
"The Little House books carried me through all the anxious times of my childhood. I'd always thought that reading about the hardships of cold and hunger had given me some childhood version of schadenfreude, making my own anxieties easier to bear. Now, when I reread the books with my daughters, though, I have another insight: The books actually provide an escape into a wonderful home, because of the way they portray Charles and Caroline's love for each other. This is a big part of what makes Laura (and by extension, perhaps, made me) feel so cozy and warm in bed at night. In our current collective imagination, how much imagery do we have of parents who love and enjoy each other like this? Who aren't harried and snapping at each other, whose children don't worry—once they become aware of the threat—that they will someday get divorced? There's a lesson in that."
A few things struck me:
1. LIW writes in great details things like sewing, cooking and all her chores and these were quite a revelation.
2. Some parts were extremely religious almost to the point of proselytizing which made me uncomfortable because we're not a religious. We haven't discussed these parts with K1 and she hasn't asked.
3. She also describes in gruesome detail killings for food e.g. deer and one particular scene that I had just heard was when their kitten killed its first mouse.
4. Pa Ingalls was a bit of a dreamer trying to strike it rich moving his family all over the country and although he never became wealthy, he was able to provide with some struggle. His ability to remain optimistic and fiddle his way through the hard times is an example for us.
5. It's hard to remember that while the events may have been true they may not necessarily have happened as written. I'm thinking of the death of their dog, Jack one the eve of the night that Pa was about to move to South Dakota.
6. "Gay" and "queer" used to mean something different than it does today.
The Wikipedia entry was great as way to find out what happened to everyone although I think all the entries on LIW and on the siblings could do with a little more footnoting and sourcing. An interesting book was William Anderson's "The Little House Guidebook".