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Little House in the Big Woods (The Little House on the Prairie) Paperback – 2 Nov 2009
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"Little House in the Big Woods" is the first book in the classic "Little House" series describing the extraordinary life of the Ingalls family as they make a life for themselves in the frontiers of nineteenth-century America. The log house where Laura and her family live is warm and cosy, but the surrounding woods are full of wolves and bears. When the snow comes their house will be nearly buried and Pa will have to make sure there's enough food to last the winter. It will take strength to survive...
About the Author
Laura Ingalls Wilder Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Wisconsin in 1867. Her family moved around, travelling from Missouri to Kansas, Minnesota and back to Wisconsin. Eventually the family settled in De Smet, Dakota Territory and Laura worked regularly as a seamstress and teacher. She stopped working when she married Almanzo Wilder in 1885. Little House in the Big Woods was first published in 1932, Little House on the Prairie in 1935, and five more books in the Little House series followed. Laura also wrote Farmer Boy about her husband’s childhood, and three more books were published posthumously. Laura was five times the recipient of the Newbery Honor Award for her distinguished contribution to American literature for children: On the Banks of Plum Creek (1938), By the Shores of Silver Lake (1940), The Long Winter (1941), Little Town on the Prairie (1942), These Happy Golden Years (1944). The books are charmingly illustrated with Garth Williams’ black and white drawings from the 1953 editions.
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We have here mum and dad, Laura, and her sister Mary, who all live in a log cabin in the woods, and are to an extent quite isolated, although as we read here, there are family visits, and they do go into town, as father helps out at harvest time.
Although not the best written book you will come across this has always been popular in America, and it is easy to see why. We have a tale of a little girl and thus what children get up to and we can see what the parents have to do, with looking after their animals and for the father, hunting. The seasons play a big part in what happens, as the family to a certain extent start to stay more indoors during the winter, and they have to contend more with wolves approaching their land.
With insights into what sort of chores had to be done, how people had to use what was around them and make do as well as they could, this reminds us of the pioneering spirit and how more people in this sort of period had to know and cope with things that nowadays we would call people in to do for us or go down the shops to buy. With regards to this latter point so this gives older readers an understanding of the period and social history. This book does include the great illustrations by Garth Williams.
Just like in my childhood I fell straight in love with the story. It is very simplistic to me now, but it is a superb world-building/setting describing book. The descriptions are rich and detailed so you can really imagine what it was like at that time; the weather, where they lived, the food they ate and the big store.
My children will definitely be reading these!
To my surprise there seems to be only version of Little House in the Big Woods available. It is an unabridged recording, comprising 4 CDs, read by Cherry Jones, an American actress who was in Erin Brockovich among other films and also starred in the TV series 24. Cherry Jones reads the novel with great conviction and her American accent certainly helped set the scene for us as we listened along.
Occasionally she is accompanied by Paul Woodiel on the violin, playing short excerpts of the fiddle music that appears throughout the novel, as played by Pa, the head of the family. What there is of the fiddle music is wonderful - adding another layer of authenticity to the story, but time and time again I felt that the producers of this audiobook had missed a trick by not letting the fiddle music really shine. For example, when there is a jig competition between two family members the dancing and the music are vividly described in the book and yet there is no music at all at this point in the CD. I don't think this bothered my daughter at all, but I'm sure these CDs are listened to by almost as many adults as children, and for us a bit more wonderful music would not have gone amiss!
I wondered if my daughter might be surprised by the American accent, especially as some words are pronounced so differently as to be somewhat confusing (eg "herbs"), but she didn't bat an eyelid! One aspect of the recording she particularly liked was that on the CDs each chapter of the book is given its own, single track (rather than multiple, shorter tracks), making it very easy for her to locate the point in the book she wanted to listen to again.
All in all, even though I personally would have enjoyed more fiddle music, this audiobook was a good buy, a lovely book to listen to.
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