Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
Review: My First Little House Books
My First Little House is a series of picture books telling simplified tales from Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Fourteen stories were published in the 1990s by HarperCollins — no author listed, simply stating they’re based upon Wilder’s work.
If you cherish the thought of one day reading the full chapter book series to your child at bedtime every night, this picture book series is for you. Wilder wrote extensively of growing up in a pioneer family in the 1870s and 80s in America.
As the Kids.Woot! blog noted, the chapter books are full of horrific details we don’t remember as adults, details inappropriate for even a kindergartner. What, pray tell? Wolf attacks, bloodshed, Biblically-proportioned insect infestations, floods, fires and detailed descriptions of butchering animals. Yum.
The picture books have none of that. They are eminently G-rated, listed appropriate for 3-year-olds.
My perspective of these books is based upon three titles I picked up in the past few weeks at garage sales.
The first thing that struck me was the amazing illustrations. Check out artist Renée Graef’s portfolio. Her Little House work is based upon the work of Garth Williams who illustrated the full chapter book series, circa 1953. Williams traveled to many of the places described in Wilder’s books, including Plum Creek.
Scene after scene in the books present an idyllic, serene view of life on the prairie. In most cases, the characters are smiling and conveying a certain at-peace quality.
If there is a criticism, it’s that two of the three books I own convey a sequence of events, rather than a typical conflict-to-resolution story. In A Little Prairie House, Pa and his neighbor Mr. Edwards begin building a log cabin while the family enjoys a picnic. In Winter on the Farm, Almanzo (Laura’s future husband) is a boy tending his chores on a farm in the New York countryside, then he eats dinner with his family and goes to bed. The stories seem mundane, but are filled with details of the time period that, of course, are likely to be new to a toddler.
The greatest opportunity for a traditional story comes in The Deer in the Woods. Pa goes into the Big Woods one evening to hunt a deer, but he returns empty-handed. He later tells his daughters of spying a large buck, but “He looked so strong and free and wild that I couldn’t shoot him. I sat and looked at him until he ran off into the Big Woods.” But Pa remembered he needed to feed his family, so he planned not to be so lofty the next time. Whoops, later that night Pa spotted a mother deer and her baby. He watched them too, then came home. His girls are pleased with Pa’s actions and vow they’ll be happy eating bread and butter.
What I like about these stories are the pictures. They effectively demonstrate for my daughter a view of the world before pavement, cars and modern society — what my daughter and I call “the before time.”
Each story stands on its own with no distinct connection between books. There also appears to be no religious tone, although the chapter books obviously delve into the family’s Christian faith with some depth.
Christianbook.com has large-scale excerpted pictures from the books, but beware that the 12-volume pack the website is selling is missing two titles (Christmas in the Woods and A Farmer Boy Birthday).
- County Fair (1997)
- Christmas in the Big Woods (1995)
- Dance at Grandpa’s (1994)
- The Deer in the Wood (1995)
- A Farmer Boy Birthday (1998)
- Going to Town (1995)
- Going West (1996)
- A Little House Birthday (1997)
- A Little Prairie House (1999)
- Prairie Day (1997)
- Sugar Snow (1998)
- Summertime in the Big Woods (1996)
- Winter Days in the Big Woods (1994)
- Winter on the Farm (1996)