Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Reading Challenge: The Little House Series

I mentioned before that Mame and I are going to be embarking on our Summer Reading Challenge of 2008. I'm going to read the Avonlea series and she is going to read the Little House series. Full disclosure: I read the first Avonlea book, Anne of Green Gables, liked it and didn't pursue the rest of the series. Mame has (she claims*) read none of the Little House books. It's all very exciting!

Ok, a little history about me and Laura Ingalls Wilder. OH MY GOD, I LOVE HER. AND HER BOOKS. I think she is the pinnacle of awesomeness and I have since I was a little girl. My mom gave me her box set of Little House books; they came in a blue cardboard box and all had pale blue covers. I don't remember reading the first one, I was probably around 7 or 8. But I LOVED them. I dressed up as Laura Ingalls for a school report. My mom made me corn meal mush and stacked pancakes for breakfast. I bought a teacup and saucer at Starbucks specifically because it was red and white with a strawberry pattern that looked like something Laura Ingalls would have liked. And that box set? Literally got read to rags. They are no more. We started repurchasing the series a few years ago and I just completed it recently.

The Little House series is endlessly useful! They are entertaining! And full of old songs! You could learn those songs and sing them at parties! But mostly? If there's ever a zombie apocalypse, I'm using the Little House series as reference material for survival! There's all sorts of dead useful information about making food and shelter! You could learn how to churn butter and make muslin sheets!

But do NOT take this to mean that since I adore the books that I liked the show. I DO NOT. I used to watch the show when I was a little girl, but would get SO OFFENDED by the digression from the source material, that I would THROW FITS. (I am not much different now than I was at age 7. Just taller.) Laura's lame, adopted brother Albert would draw cries of, "BOYS? There were no BOYS in the BOOK! MOMMMMMM!" I think my mom just stopped letting me watch it. Of course, now it's occasionally fun for a chuckle at its badness or cringing at its FUCKING CREEPINESS. Like, the episode where Albert's girlfriend gets raped by a guy dressed as a clown? Yeah, wholesome. Or the episode where Mary's baby dies in a housefire because SHE ABANDONED him. Lovely! Of the episode where Ma gets all cracked out and feverish and tries to cut her leg off. Mmm, wonderful! I won't even get into the Shannen Doherty era. Yeah, you heard me.

Ok, Mame, you are about to read my favorite books in the world. Here is the order in which you should approach them. Also, it's totally spoilery, but dude. It's historical record. Have at it:

1. Little House in the Big Woods. The Ingalls family's early life in Wisconsin. There is nothing I can say about this book that is not said better here. Ha ha ha, a pig's bladder.

2. Little House on the Prairie. Ah, the titular novel. (Heh.) The Ingalls family: Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura and Baby Carrie travel West! Holy shit, people would just pack up their belongings and children, thrown them in a wagon and leave. Maybe they'd DIE! Maybe their families would never see/hear from them again! Maybe the West would SUCK. I watched Deadwood, it DID suck. That is CRAZY. These people are brave. The depiction of Native Americans (as well as African-Americans and gender issues, later.) will make any decent person uncomfortable, but you have to chalk it up to the time period, I guess.

3. On the Banks of Plum Creek. My favorite of the early novels! (Of course, picking my favorite of this series is like picking my favorite of my CHILDREN. Which I don't have.) The Ingalls family in Minnesota, after literally getting booted out of Indian Territory. They lived in an underground house! Laura and Mary go to school for the first time! They meet the odious Nellie Oleson! There is literally a plague of locusts!

4. By the Shores of Silver Lake. The one where Mary goes blind.

5. The Long Winter. My absolute, hands-down favorite. LOVE this one. I can reread this novel hundreds of times and probably have. The Ingalls family lives through an INSANE winter that last for about 7 months. Of blizzards. There's not much food. They're burning hay. Laura's future husband Almanzo Wilder and his friend Cap Garland risk their lives to bring back wheat for the town! It's all EXTREMELY dramatic and awesome! Everyone keeps their spirits up!

6. Farmer Boy: Almanzo's boyhood in New York. You should read The Long Winter first, so you have an idea of who this Almanzo boy is and why you should care about him. And seriously, this book is total food porn. Almanzo likes to eat. Don't read this book hungry, for real.

7. Little Town on the Prairie: Laura keeps going to school and is growing up. They send Mary to a college for the blind and Laura has to become a school teacher to earn money for her sister's education. She really doesn't want to. It's a whole thing. Also, it's pretty fun because Laura is a teenager here and you hear a lot about her dresses and stuff. Hoop skirts! Corsets!

8. These Happy Golden Years: In which we learn of Laura's first teaching job, which sucks. And she starts "dating" Almanzo Wilder. He takes her for drives and stuff. It's all very restrained. She lets him hold her hand AFTER they're engaged. They get married and it's awesome. This is probably my second favorite.

9. The First Four Years: So, Laura and Almanzo are married and have their daughter, Rose. And are visited by the plagues of Job. Seriously, their house burns down, they lose money, they have a son who dies, it's heart-wrenching. But they persevere! Really, all the Little House books are like that. There is tragedy! But they persevere! And there's fiddle-playing! This novel? Not my favorite. It was published after her death and was in rough-draft format. It's not much like the others. It's fine, whatever. It's really short.

Mame, I can't wait for you to get all involved in this series. Laura is so great. I need to read them all over again, too!

*It's not that I think she's lying. I just can't conceive of not having read them! Really, what was your mother thinking?


Anonymous said...

Ok, "Lady" is one for you: I HAD what I think are the EXACT same Little House books as you. Blue cardbord box, all titles in it with light blue covers and drawn pictures (old-time-y looking.) I can picture them now. Anyway, I had them. (They may be in the attic. When you go up there to get my FITA series, you can grab those for yourself.) Got them for Christmas one year. And here is the kicker...I am ashamed to admit this cause I was an AVID reader in my youth. Seriously, it was nothing to me to rip through a Nancy Drew in a day. And don't get me started on Beverly Cleary books. ANYWAY, although I was given the Little House books, I never read them. Nope. Tried to read the first one but was disillusioned because it was NOTHING like the T.V. show, which I loved. (I must interrupt myself here to say that I recently tried to watch some Litle House episodes on TBS or something and was HORRIFIED. And I was never big on the Albert years, either. I was a fan of the early years when Laura was young; like below 13 or something...)

OK- I had the series. It sat on my brown bokcase in my room for YEARS. Now, my mind may be slipping, cause I am getting on in years, but I am pretty sure that when I got to the turbulant teenage years, young Mame took those books and I seem to have some flicker of a memery of her reading them. I am not out to start a quarrel here, since I am getting up there in numbers, I could be wrong. But I just thought that I would throw this factual bit of info out there for you.

(Course, you know about Mame/me childhood and how things get "squed" (sp?) in looking back. It is hard to remember things since we were lied to constantly. Be kind when speaking to Mame about this, OK? We had a rough time growing up...Maybe she had memory lapse that she read them. Maybe I have memory lapse. Maybe I dreamt that little Mame cheerily read a series of hope and struggle and triumph. I just wanted to open the discussion to allow the option for truth.)

"Lady" Bea said...


And my dearest Mame? Rebuttal?

Anonymous said...

I KNOW, I KNOW!!!! I do agree that they got desperate once Albert came along (he was the original Oliver). But I really did like the early shows when Laura was cute in pigtails...

Auntie Mame said...

Allow me to clear the air:
Joan bought Dolly the "Little House" series and bought me car-seat covers. Wait, that may have been two different Christmas's. Oh well. I never read the Little House books, partially because they were boring as all get out and partially because Joan went on and on about how her grandmother was friends with Laura Ingles Wilder and mentioned in the book. Because of how famously Joan lied, I was immediately disillusioned with the books and used them as a book end for the same brown bookcase for many a year.
When a friend of mine bought me the "Anne of Green Gables" books I read them almost in defiance of Joan wanting me to read the "Little House" books (they were Canadian and apple farmers, as opposed to American settlers).
ALSO...Dolly, isn't it interesting that Joan tried to Sue the school over your reading a romance novel, but she GLADLY bought us the VC Andrews books at Barbara Shopshire? How ironic.

EGT said...

You say you can't pick a favorite...and then you pick a favorite. For shame!

Anonymous said...

I may be partial but Bea was the cutest little Laura Ingalls "wannabe" EVER. Shout out to Dolly for reading the Nancy Drew books. You have inspired me to re-read one. An intriguing yarn about an old clock and second will. Oh Nancy, the sleuthing you could do with a cell phone and laptop.
Mame, I hope that you get as much enjoyment from the Little books as Bea and I do.

Bea's mom