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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Read-a-long discussion



The Little House on the Prairie Read-a-Long officially starts today!  I know that many of you are still working on locating copies of the books, and the way I have the read-a-long planned this is no big deal. You can always go back to a previous book, or skip a title all together. For a schedule of books, see this post.


This post and the comments will contain spoilers.



In 1870s Wisconsin, young Laura Ingalls lives in a small cabin in the big woods with her parents and sisters. With very little contact with others, the Ingalls family has to provide for everything they need, and defend themselves against the bears, wolves and winter.

As I was reading Little House in the Big Woods, I was struck by the idea that I could not imagine a current writer writing a story like this for small kids. The book is set over the course of a year and while there are small (very small) moments of suspense, it's more a diary of what happens. There is no climatic ending like we've grown to expect in books, and it's easy to imagine it quietly continuing into another book, as it does. Laura and her family work through the seasons, preparing for winter, stock piling food, adding natural insulation to the house, and making quilts and mittens.  They enjoy a festive Christmas with their cousins, and a dance at their Grandparents. Before you know it, it's Spring and they all go to town, and then summer and it's time to harvest. The book concludes with the arrival of Jack Frost and the beginnings of preparations for the next winter.

Here in Pierre, we just had a five day weekend (for the Pirate) and/or a three day weekend (for Mike.) We were all a bit under the weather on Sunday, and then yesterday each of us left the house very briefly, but it was bitterly cold, windy, and very hard to breathe. By the time bedtime finally rolled around, I was more than ready to return to our normal life and send Mike and the Pirate back into the world. All this to say, I can not imagine staring at each other all day every day all winter long. We have lots of toys, lots of technology, and electric heat and it was crazy making. While the book makes it clear that Laura and Mary squabble some, it seems that they all enjoy each others company for long periods of time, and there is little of the fighting that goes on here.

This leads me to another point, one that I think many children (US children anyway) would find shocking- At Christmas, Laura gets her first doll. Prior to this, she played with a corncob and pretended it was a doll. Otherwise, they got a piece of candy and some mittens and they were all thrilled!  Here in my immediate family, we celebrate Christmas quietly, but not that quietly. Even my kids would be shocked by this scarcity. They would not find the food to be overly special, because even their favorite foods aren't saved up for a special occasion. In the summer, the girls play outside using acorns and leaves as toys, and while I definitely remember doing that as a child, and I know my kids will do that (only using sticks as swords, not acorns as tea cups), they would be bored with that day after day. This does inspire me to take them out this summer, and encourage more creative play with nature.

As I was reading, I was surprised by just how many of the stories I remember reading as a child. I haven't re-read the books since I was the targeted age, and assumed it would be fairly new to me again, but this turned out not to be the case. The doll at Christmas, the story of the two bears, the picture of Aunt Docia and Aunt Ruby getting ready for the dance, all of that was familiar to me and the rest filled in naturally. I'm thrilled to be reading them again as an adult, and it find much of it to be just as fascinating as I did then. There are just so many details of what life was like without our modern technology, and while I have no desire to live then, I am enjoying reading about it.

And last, this quote from their trip to town:
The sky was large overhead. Laura had never known that the sky was so big.There was so much empty space all around her that she felt small and frightened, and glad that Pa and Ma were there.
-p.164

I was so sure I had mentioned this on the blog, but I can't find any record of it- when I first moved to South Dakota at age 27, the wide open sky would make me cry. I didn't feel it in Rapid City, but for the first few years if we happened to be driving across the state at night, it would overwhelm me and I'd find myself blinking back tears for no explainable reason. That sensation of being small is very real, when you see how big the sky really is. The picture I used for the Read-a-Long button is only a glimpse of what it's really like. This has mostly gone away with time, and now I am just fascinated by the night sky on the prairie, but I could really relate to Laura in that instance.  Have any of you experienced this?



So let's talk a bit. Answer in the comments (or not, as the mood strikes!)


Was this your first time reading the book?
Were these childhood favorites?
What scene stood out the most to you?
Do you think your children could play all summer with two dolls and some acorns?
Do you think kids today like the books as much as we did? As much as our parents did?
Would you take a bite of head cheese?
How different do you think these books would be if told from the perspective of Ma or Pa? (And I don't believe for a minute they would have the same perspective!)
Society would tell us that the fascination to be super skinny was a fairly new thing, but Pa could span Ma's waist with his hands, and Scarlett O'Hara had a 16" waist. What do you think about that? (For comparison, the Princess's waist, which is too skinny to keep up most 2T pants, is 18".)
How would your family handle three days of enforced togetherness? A week? A month?
What about the songs Pa sang? Am I the only one who skimmed those?
What was your favorite moment in the book?
What other thoughts do you have on the book as a whole?



We will begin discussion of Little House on the Prairie on April 1, but this post will remain open for comments and discussion for the duration.

Find the Read-a-Long on twitter with hashtag #littlehouseRAL.
 


30 comments:

  1. Ya know, I didn't even think about it in comparison to today's children's lit... you're right though, it is not like books of today.

    I get stir crazy too (hence why I went fishing and froze my butt off just to get out of the house) and I don't know how I would handle Little House winters. Not to mention that much family time.


    Sooo discussion time:
    I mentioned on my post that I got the set as a wee one from my Aunt... not sure exactly when though... honestly I am often a bit fuzzy on my childhood.

    I know darn well Maddie couldn't play all summer with a doll and acorns! She is a busy body, and while she doesn't play with a lot of "things" in the summer, she does need more than a doll.

    I want to read these to Maddie and get her opinion on the books to see just how well they translate to this new generation of kids.

    EW NO. No head cheese here. I didn't want to try it before, and now rereading how to make it, DEFINITELY not.

    Okay- so the waist thing just astonished me. Perspective is everything- that is CRAZY. Grown women with a 2T sized waist?! Awful.... and along the same lines at Laura's hair color inferiority complex- it started ages ago and it starts young. The whole thing makes my head spin.

    Skimmed. I didn't pay much attention and without actual musical reference of the tune, I had a hard time.

    Favorite moment has to be the description of the party & maple syrup stuff... I loved hearing the details through Laura's eyes!!

    Thoughts in general- I love the book. I had a hard time transitioning back to the book I'm reading now though (Gone Girl).... I just wanted to continue reading Little House!

    Cant wait to see everyone else's thoughts!

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    1. My copies are a hodgepodge from the library and the thrift store. I do have a full set, bought as an adult, in the garage, somewhere.

      I was thinking about reading scenes to the boys, but maybe not the entire books. They'd like the bears, and the gun, and maybe the story of the kid who got stung.

      I find that I skim lyrics in all books, not just here. Poems too. That version of text just doesn't ring my bells.

      The other things I failed to mention, is how GOOD they are expected to be. Do you think they were as good as Laura says, or do you think she's imposing a little bit of wishful thinking on the book?

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    2. Yeah the whole idea of "seen and not heard" is so bizarre to me! Foreign, really.

      I wouldn't be surprised if she exaggerated it, but I do think it was the norm for the era, especially for girls- prim and proper!

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    3. I'm betting they were much better behaved than kids these days; expectations for that were much higher. We do tend to excuse some of our kids behavior. I wonder if the better behavior also has to do with the simpler times? The kids were kept busier with chores, they had to walk a lot more, and they didn't expect to be entertained.

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  2. I finished last night, and it was such a delight to revisit the Big Woods!

    Was this your first time reading the book? I read this book in 6th grade and was fascinated by the historical detail. I loved getting "lost" in the daily activities of this family. It's something I still cherish about historical fiction and I favor books of this nature -- that include lots of minutiae -- to this day.

    Were these childhood favorites? I guess I started on them relatively late compared to some others. I have not read the whole series.

    What scene stood out the most to you? Anything involving food!!! Those were my favorite scenes. I loved finding out how they prepared for the seasons and stockpiled all those wonderful edibles.

    Do you think your children could play all summer with two dolls and some acorns?
    Greyson is pretty thrifty. He has a tendency to "forget about" most of his toys not touching them for months and then coming back to them as if they're brand new. He's also one of those kids that's happier with a set of measuring cups than a LeapFrog laptop. He's only 3, so we'll see how he develops.

    Do you think kids today like the books as much as we did?
    I hope so! With an even larger gap in experience between Wilder's generation and our kids' generation, I think there's even more to be discovered.

    As much as our parents did?
    Maybe more!

    Would you take a bite of head cheese?
    If I lived then, I'm sure of it. Now? No way in hell.

    How different do you think these books would be if told from the perspective of Ma or Pa? (And I don't believe for a minute they would have the same perspective!)
    Wouldn't have been nearly as much fun if told from Ma or Pa's perspective. They're didactic, but it's nice for kids to learn from the children's perspective. Much easier to relate to. Would've been far too preachy if told by Ma or Pa.

    Society would tell us that the fascination to be super skinny was a fairly new thing, but Pa could span Ma's waist with his hands, and Scarlett O'Hara had a 16" waist. What do you think about that? (For comparison, the Princess's waist, which is too skinny to keep up most 2T pants, is 18".)
    I noticed this too! Scary. Not a new development by any stretch of imagination.

    How would your family handle three days of enforced togetherness? A week? A month?
    Totally stir crazy. Totally. I would be worse off than Greyson, I'm sure.

    What about the songs Pa sang? Am I the only one who skimmed those?
    They were short, but I still skimmed them. I hate having to make up a melody in my head.

    What was your favorite moment in the book?
    Probably when Ma slapped the bear. That whole vignette was a lot of fun.

    What other thoughts do you have on the book as a whole?
    Charming! Loved it! Will re-read it again one day.

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    1. Seriously, I'm totally disgusted by head cheese now. EW.

      Now that you mention it, I think I would be much more stir crazy than Maddie... seems the kids can entertain themselves and do their own thing a bit longer than us... I'd be ready to go ANYWHERE just to get the hell out of the house.

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    2. I could stay home ALONE for a nice long time. Add the rest of my family and I'm ready to run away.

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    3. Andi-

      Making the butter! Have you done the butter in the jar? I kind of want to try it with the boys.

      LE played with this tiny little duck from a quarter machine for HOURS the other day. Made me think they are more inventive than I give them credit for.

      Totally with you on head cheese.

      Didactic is one of those words I always have to look up. I agree that it would be too preachy if Ma were writing it for kids, but what if Ma were writing it for adults? Do you think life would have been quite as happy for her as it seems?

      Ma slapping the bear was so calm. I understand the not running in fear, but wow. And Laura just turning to slowly walk away! Crazy. The Pa and the bear story is the one I remember the best from reading as a kid.

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    4. I'm not familiar with the butter in the jar of which you speak!

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    5. http://frugalliving.about.com/od/foodsavings/r/Homemade_Butter.htm There! I even have some cream, perhaps I should make the kids try it today!

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  3. Was this your first time reading the book? I'm not sure. I thought I read these when I was a kid, but I'm not remembering it.
    Were these childhood favorites? I thought they were, but maybe I'm mixing it up with what my sister liked. I know I bought the entire series for her as a kid. I, of course, watched the TV show.
    What scene stood out the most to you? Probaby the deer hunting story at the end and how Pa didn't shoot the deer because they looked so beautiful. I know where I live, people depend on venison for food so I'm not sure if they'd have the same perspective.
    Do you think your children could play all summer with two dolls and some acorns? I don't have children, but I know my nephew sure couldn't.
    Do you think kids today like the books as much as we did? As much as our parents did? I don't think so. Judging by the last time this book was taken out of our library, 2008, I doubt it.
    Would you take a bite of head cheese? Maybe.
    How different do you think these books would be if told from the perspective of Ma or Pa? (And I don't believe for a minute they would have the same perspective!) Maybe not as rosy as Laura's perspective.
    Society would tell us that the fascination to be super skinny was a fairly new thing, but Pa could span Ma's waist with his hands, and Scarlett O'Hara had a 16" waist. What do you think about that? (For comparison, the Princess's waist, which is too skinny to keep up most 2T pants, is 18".) I was kind of surprised by that myself, but it didn't make me stop from reading the rest of the book. :)
    How would your family handle three days of enforced togetherness? A week? A month? Well, sometimes to be honest, enforced togetherness with my parents isn't always a good thing. Two days is about the limit sometimes.
    What about the songs Pa sang? Am I the only one who skimmed those? I liked the songs myself and recognized a few of them as traditional folk songs.
    What was your favorite moment in the book? Where Charley got stung by the yellow jackets. After all, it served the little liar right!
    What other thoughts do you have on the book as a whole? Like Andi and Jenna, I loved it. It was a nice respite from all the murder mysteries I normally read. I left the book with a smile on my face.

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    1. I never did watch the TV show... I think I may try to hunt it down online though after I finish reading the series. Did you like the show?

      Forced togetherness with my parents is not on my list of favorites-I love them, but I could go a bit nutty.

      I can't believe the last time the book was taken out was 2008! That is perspective for what's happened to this type of story.

      Hahahaha I totally loved the yellow jacket part too.... very boy who cried wolf.

      I agree with you that reading this was a nice break :)

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    2. I remember liking the show a lot. It was one of our family's favorites, along with The Waltons. I only wish Netflix Instant or Amazon Instant had it, instead of having to get all the discs.

      Oh, and don't get me wrong, love my parents too, but yeah...:)

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    3. Bryan,

      So glad you are joining us and enjoyed it!

      The hunting scene at the end was actually one of the moments that just didn't ring true for me. I also live in hunting country, and I just can't imagine anyone dependent on feeding themselves like this skipping a good shot.

      Oh library due dates! Great idea! My copy was checked out last month, twice in 2012, three times in 2011, and before that was on a different slip. I'm pretty sure the local schools push it a bit since we have the Laura Ingalls Wilder connection in South Dakota.

      I really think that Pa was a happy man, but I suspect that Ma kinda hated all the work. He went out in solitude to hunt! and she had to make headcheese. (I might be hung up on that.)

      I forgot about Charley! It did serve him right, didn't it? But then, another example of a nice little moral lesson, only a bit more kind than being eaten by a wolf. Either today's books don't have as much morality, or I totally don't get it. (My 7 year old is reading Star Wars and Beast Quest books, I doubt there is a lesson in there.)

      I could hang out with my parents way longer than my kids, were we locked in one room. Now, if you put my mom AND my kids in the room with me? HEAVEN for ALL of us.

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  4. I want to round up this book. I don't think I read them as a child...or at least all of them. I think that children would benefit from the lasc of all the stuff that we have at least for periods of time. We are getting ready to institute this. I might have some issues with the forced togetherness all that time...but my husband would be in heaven. :)

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    1. So then you play the role of Pa and go off hunting all day while "Ma" has togetherness!

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  5. Hi, glad to join the fun!

    I agree with you that nowadays it would be very difficult to publish a story without, well, a story. These are more vignettes of their (harsh) life. But that what makes its charm and what make them appealing to adults: we get to discover all the details of their lives at that time.

    So here are my answers:

    Was this your first time reading the book?
    I read this book a couple of years ago, but I never read it as a child.

    Were these childhood favorites?
    As a child I only read the third one, which was closest to the TV show. But I was an avid fan of the TV show! How very surprised I was when I realized that they kept moving and didn't actually stay in Walnut Grove…

    What scene stood out the most to you?
    The pig bladder balloon. I understand once you have killed the animal you might as well use every last piece of it, but I was still shocked. And fascinated at the same time.

    Do you think your children could play all summer with two dolls and some acorns?
    My daughter most certainly could! No matter what toys she has around her, she always comes back to either drawing or using one doll and inventing tons of stories, reenactments, etc.

    Do you think kids today like the books as much as we did? As much as our parents did?
    I think it is possible. When I was a child I borrowed my mother's old copies of Countess of Ségur's books, which were very outdated, but I loved these stories all the same. Also, I think kids today could be even more fascinated than us by the life in the wilderness!

    Would you take a bite of head cheese?
    Well, I'm vegan, so no thanks.

    How different do you think these books would be if told from the perspective of Ma or Pa?
    I'm pretty sure the kids are so not as well-behaved as Laura presents it! Ma would probably talk about how tired she is ;-) I think the harshness and difficulties would be more highlighted. I was always fascinated by how these stories are written. Yes, there are emotions, but mostly it's factual. And I imagine if I had to raise my kids in such an environment, sure I wouldn't overthink it because it would drive me mad, but I would worry about their safety and survival constantly.

    Society would tell us that the fascination to be super skinny was a fairly new thing, but Pa could span Ma's waist with his hands, and Scarlett O'Hara had a 16" waist. What do you think about that?
    I think it's just crazy. I'm not even going to try to translate that into metric, I can see already that it's nonsensical. I suspect Ma to not eat as much as the others: but is it a beauty thing or more likely a save-the-food thing…

    How would your family handle three days of enforced togetherness? A week? A month?
    We would go completely mad. From the moment I watched the TV show, I was always amazed at how they lived in a small room all together and always seemed to be happy about it. Is it because we're used to be able to have some privacy? Also, kids need to stretch their legs, so I don't know how they manage to stay inside without going wild.

    What about the songs Pa sang? Am I the only one who skimmed those?
    I skimmed heavily. Glad to see I'm not the only one!

    What was your favorite moment in the book?
    The maple syrup. I loved reading about the whole process, and Laura's joy. And I kept thinking how much more healthy it was than the white sugar we overeat without thinking about it. I guess if I took time to pay attention I would rather have maple syrup from time to time than white sugar whenever I want.

    What other thoughts do you have on the book as a whole?
    I love how they remind us of the value of things. Through Laura's eyes, we value maple syrup, cornbread, a family evening filled with songs, etc. Whenever I read stories like that, I get nostalgic and think that I should try a candlelight evening with the kids, and get the guitar and sing… and then I think "How very Kumbaya of me" and I move on!

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    1. Larissa, thanks for the great comment!

      I was also surprised that they weren't all in the same setting. I had no idea that she grew up in South Dakota until I moved here as an adult.

      I haven't heard of the Countess of Segur, are they in English?

      Can you imagine just how tired Ma was? But I suppose for the most part days all ran together with the routine of just being alive. I think some of our modern conveniences make us think we have more to do than we really HAVE to do. For example, all the time spent on this read-a-long! Ma would have just read the book to the girls and moved on.

      I used to work at a historical park that had cabins from different eras and classes, including a slave cabin and one from about 1850. The 1850 one was two rooms. I was always amazed. My family is currently living in a 3 room apartment (living area, two bedrooms, five people), but it is much larger in area than any of those. And we're going insane with the closeness!

      I wish I could find an alternative to white sugar that was as tasty, lol. I'm ok with substitutes most places, but coffee is a sad sad thing without the real deal.

      Kumbaya! That made me laugh.

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    2. Hi Lisa,

      Unfortunately Countess of Ségur doesn't seem to have been translated. It consists of short stories of little girls who misbehave (although what they do would be considered "normal behavior" nowadays!).

      Oh you're so right, Ma would be appalled by our read-a-long!

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  6. I'm so glad you decide to do this, Lisa!

    I read the books over and over again as a child. I think the first time I was probably 8 or 9 and I just continued reading them each year growing up. I think they have a sort of magic to them for the children of today's world. Though life was incredibly difficult for Laura and her family, it didn't seem that way to them and their contentedness with corn cob dolls and desserts of maple snow have an awesome sort of whimsy.

    I pretty much always skimmed the songs (and sometimes even the stories Pa told), but I, like Andi above, loved anything to do with food. Packing the house for the upcoming winter, making the maple snow treat, cooking for Christmas, etc. It's the foodie in me.

    I often long for simpler times and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. I don't think forced togetherness would be difficult for my small family of 3, but I do think that when certain comforts are taken away, be that close all the time would be a burden, but only because we're used to having them. Take away electronics from my husband and he's pretty lost after a few hours. I've always wished we could just get rid of our television, but I do watch for an hour or two each night as my relaxing time. Do we need those things, absolutely not, and seeing Laura's family interact the way that they did with very little was very inspiring.

    I did love the book as a whole, though it's definitely not my favorite of the series. I think I enjoy the later books more, simply because Laura is older and doing more than playing with a doll and explaining about their daily life. A great intro to the series though!

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    1. Amanda, do you think that you found new details on each reading (as a child) or were they just comfortable to you? I don't remember rereading a lot as a child, I wonder why you did?

      I can see myself skipping the stories too. For as much as I love books, it's not often that I love "storytelling" in books, with the exception of The Princess Bride.

      I could get rid of a lot of modern things, but man I'd miss the little people in my computer. I contemplate challenging myself to a week offline or something, but I know I'd never make it.

      Which one is your favorite? Did it change as you got older?

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  7. I read this a couple of years ago now but just looked at my review and I also commented on the difference in kids. I guess they didn't know anything else back then - I don't think my son would play for very long with the things they had then, but he's used to ipad games! I remember being surprised at how hard they all worked all the time and how nothing ever got wasted. I think they would be shocked if they could see us now, with our culture of waste. I hope that when my son is old enough he will appreciate these books, they are outdated but there is still a lot to learn from them, for all ages.

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    1. Joanna, I'll have to go look for your review.

      The non-waste thing is huge for me. I am really bad about throwing away "icky" bits of things. I'm getting better at using up things before they go bad, but no WAY I'd go so far as head cheese. But at least I recognize that I'm not gonna use the whole thing and only buy what I'm comfortable with.

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    2. My review isn't worth looking for, it was just a few thoughts which I summarised here anyway. :-)

      I don't do icky either, not even bits of fat on a chicken breast, nothing. Ma would be appalled at what I throw in the trash! :-)

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    3. Haha, me too. I do not buy whole chicken, ever. But at least I know this, and don't waste it, right?

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  8. Was this your first time reading the book? Yes, I have only read Little House on the Prairie.
    Were these childhood favorites? Yes, I really enjoyed Little House on the Prairie and always wanted to read the whole series but school got in the way.
    What scene stood out the most to you? The scene at the party and how Laura's Grandmother as old as she was could keep up with younger generation, I wish my grandmothers could do that.
    Do you think your children could play all summer with two dolls and some acorns? No, my children are to busy and full of energy. They have short attentions spans as well.
    Do you think kids today like the books as much as we did? As much as our parents did? No, I don't think so if you mean my kids. I try to read to them and they act like I am giving them a root canal. My parents were not big readers they would rather watch tv. I am the only reader in my current household as well.

    Would you take a bite of head cheese? No

    How different do you think these books would be if told from the perspective of Ma or Pa? (And I don't believe for a minute they would have the same perspective!)
    Society would tell us that the fascination to be super skinny was a fairly new thing, but Pa could span Ma's waist with his hands, and Scarlett O'Hara had a 16" waist. What do you think about that? (For comparison, the Princess's waist, which is too skinny to keep up most 2T pants, is 18".) I don't think it has changed much women are always in a sense dying to be thin. We just don't use restrictive corsets anymore.

    How would your family handle three days of enforced togetherness? A week? A month? We would be at each other's throats literally after awhile. I am a loner by nature and would like to be able to have time to myself to just think.

    What about the songs Pa sang? Am I the only one who skimmed those?
    I read them one of them was offense but all in all they were kind of cute.

    What was your favorite moment in the book? I think I answered this in the second question. Grandma dancing and keeping up with the young folks

    What other thoughts do you have on the book as a whole? I really enjoyed this book and it is interesting how they lived back then. Homesteading sounds very interesting but with me having a brown thumb I probably would not have survived.

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  9. It feels like we've had an entire winter of "togetherness!" And I'll just say - we are ALL excited for spring!

    Neither of my kids play with toys very much, but they are still all over my house. I honestly think they would be fine without them if we lived in a milder climate and they could have more outside time. I will repeat again - we are ALL excited for spring!

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  10. Was this your first time reading the book?
    I have read the book at least 4-5 times (first when I was about 8).

    Were these childhood favorites?
    Yes, they were.

    What scene stood out the most to you?
    Christmas chapter, sugaring off dance, Laura feeling bad when the shopkeeper complimented Mary and not her, pig bladder as a balloon.

    Do you think your children could play all summer with two dolls and some acorns?
    No, because my son (18 now) grew up with a lot more toys and things to do. If he had lived in that era, and that was all he knew, it would be different. I think perhaps Laura and Mary's play time was not all that long, even in summer. They were still helping Ma with the chores, and on Sundays they really couldn't play.

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  11. Do you think kids today like the books as much as we did? As much as our parents did?
    I think so. I recently suggested them for the daughters of someone I know, and she tells me they really enjoy them. My parents did not read them (though my father loved the TV show -he used to cry while watching it). I read most of the series to my son when he was 6-7 years old and he enjoyed it, until we got up to Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years - Laura's concerns as a young lady were not interesting to him so we stopped there. He liked Farmer Boy a lot - especially how much Almanzo ate. Sometimes he wanted to act out Farmer Boy scenes with me.

    Would you take a bite of head cheese?
    No way.

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  12. How different do you think these books would be if told from the perspective of Ma or Pa? (And I don't believe for a minute they would have the same perspective!)
    They might describe more of the hardships (if you read about LIW's real life, she left out some of the harsher realities). The First Four Years, about the first years of her marriage, was written from an adult perspective.

    Society would tell us that the fascination to be super skinny was a fairly new thing, but Pa could span Ma's waist with his hands, and Scarlett O'Hara had a 16" waist. What do you think about that? (For comparison, the Princess's waist, which is too skinny to keep up most 2T pants, is 18".)
    I don't think they were trying to be super skinny all over - they had a thing for tiny waists, though (they didn't seem to worry about having thin arms, legs, small butts, flat stomachs - a lot of which was covered by their dresses). The hand-span waist size wasn't real. It was how small it could get if you pulled your corset strings tight enough - which sounds terribly uncomfortable. One of the later books in the series goes into this in detail - Laura hates wearing her corsets and Ma wants her to so she can have the little waist. There wasn't any talk of dieting, though (they were supposed to clean their plates). They certainly enjoyed their food, and people were so much more physically active. Laura sometimes wishes she was taller and her figure more "willowy." She describes herself as "round."

    How would your family handle three days of enforced togetherness? A week? A month?
    Would be hard if we just had to sit around doing nothing. This did not really strike me when I was reading the book because they were so busy. In the daytime, chores for Ma and the girls, playtime for the girls, hunting/farming/fishing for Pa. The evenings were their together time, when Pa played the fiddle and told stories. Sundays, though, sounded so boring, just staying around the house all day, having to sit still and do only quiet activity. They did have their relatives in the Big Woods, and they sometimes got toggether with some friends - To me they seemed a little more isolated in the next book in the series. I know Ma certainly preferred to be near a town where there was a church and school, and if I were her, I would too.

    What about the songs Pa sang? Am I the only one who skimmed those?
    I kind of skimmed them too. I often skim words of songs in books.

    What was your favorite moment in the book?
    There were quite a few - Laura getting the doll, making snow angels, the maple sugar candy, the aunts getting ready for the dance, Grandma jigging, making patterns on the window glass with a thimble, the getting ready for winter bits,

    What other thoughts do you have on the book as a whole?
    Although the later books in the series were more interesting in that as Laura aged in the books, her writing style aged as well, this one was always a favorite of mine for several reasons:
    1 - Everything just seemed so cozy and safe in the cabin in the woods.
    2- they had a lot of family members fairly nearby - after they moved on to the other places, they rarely saw family (they met up with a few of them later on, as you'll remember if you read the whole series).
    3 -the woods appealed to me more than the prairie without many trees - although I liked when they lived near a town - I think their lives were more interesting there.

    I think I remember reading that one reason Laura wrote this book was to show children how people lived in days past. She had only intended to write this one book, but wrote more when children wrote letters to her asking for more stories.

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