REVIEW: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Kids who grew up watching Laura, Mary, baby Carrie and their Ma, Caroline and Pa, Charles of the 1980s TV series “The Little House on the Prairie” starring Melissa Gilbert will definitely enjoy reading this book, written by Laura herself.

I bought this full-color collector’s edition for about US$10 because almost every other page had beautiful illustrations by Garth Williams, praised by Laura because she “and her folks live again in those pictures”.

The Little House (9 Volumes Set)

Laura introduces us to her life in a little log cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin late 1800s and early 1900s where her Pa and Ma are preparing for the cold, hard winter ahead.

Now, Americans (or any Westerner) who recoil in horror when they hear or see Asians (e.g. Chinese, Vietnamese eating pigs or dogs), Inuits (eating a whole seal/whale in Canada) and the indigenous peoples of Latin American (e.g. Peruvians eating guinea pigs) ought to read this book!

Early on in the book, Laura and Mary tail their Pa as he smokes deer meat (in a fascinating smokehouse made from a tree trunk) and slaughters a wild hog, from which these various parts were turned into food or play:

  • spare ribs for dinner;
  • hams and shoulders (pickled in brine), side meat and belly salted;
  • heart, liver and tongue – no mention of what happened to them;
  • head – boiled, scraped, seasoned with salt, pepper and spices and set into a pan to harden into ‘headcheese’!
  • bladder – blown up and tied with string into a little ballon to play with 🙂 and
  • the pig’s tail was sprinkled with salt and roasted – Laura and Mary ate EVERY bit of it, leaving the bones for the dog, Jack.

Now, I love the salty bits of meat near to the bone of a roasted pig and also the crunchy, roasted skin but never in my growing-up years in the Chinese community have I met anyone who loved the pig’s tail!

If Laura and her family are alive today, they’d probably be regarded with respect by the traditional Chinese community LOL

I think I enjoyed the book just for the types of food alone eaten throughout the four seasons:

  • salt-rising bread, rye’n’Injun bread, Swedish crackers, vinegar pies, dried-apple pies and molasses candy for Christmas;
  • homemade butter and cheese;
  • pumpkin pies, dried-berry pies, cookies, cakes, cold boiled pork, pickles, soft and hard maple candy and pancakes with maple syrup at a dance at Grandpa’s…

YUM!!! I told Hubby that if he could ever take us for a trip to the US, I’m going there just to EAT 🙂

I also love reading about the simple life those days when

  • Christmas presents were made,
  • fresh produce or skins etc were traded for supplies a family needs;
  • the conservationist practice of only killing what one needed to feed one’s family;
  • the “waste not, want not” approach of using every part of a plant or animal e.g. Laura’s Ma braided straw hats out of the dried stalks of oats;
  • firm yet gentle approach to disciplining children e.g. Laura was a brown haired 5 year old who appeared less attractive than her golden-haired elder sister, Mary. Although her Pa loved her a lot, he didn’t hesitate to whip her with a belt when Laura slapped Mary because she was jealous of her golden curls.

Although the book cover targets little girls, little boys will also enjoy reading about the children, their cousins and their friends’ lives in the wild about

  • hunting for deer with encounters with bears and a panther,
  • an attack by a swarm of bees;
  • Pa’s making his own bullets for his rifle;
  • the process of making maple syrup and
  • the harvest season

I almost felt sad when the book ended especially as I only have “On the Banks of Plum Creek (Little House)“.

I hope that I can find the other books at the library or hint to my family that I’d LOVE the The Little House Collection Box Set (Full Color) for Christmas 🙂

4 comments… add one
  • I’ve never read any of the Little House books before. Did the TV show or the book come first?

    BTW, do you have Library Thing?

  • Josette – I think the books came out first before the TV show. Also, the TV show’s father “Charles” is a friendlier faced man than the real grizzly-bearded man in the book. Guess they think people may not like the shaggy beard too much 🙂

    No, I don’t have the Library Thing…should I get it???

  • The book came out first on based on the author’s real life story. I know this because my father named me after the main character (now everyone knows my name) when the show was a hit back then.

    However, I never actually followed the reruns or read the entire collection. I read only one which is LHOT Prairie up until she met her real life husband (Wilder) but didn’t marry in that book (yet). I love her stories as they were written in a simple way but its the all rustic/classic old America period that is very intriguing.

  • Lifejuicer – Are you really named after her? That’s nice because Laura is one of my favourite girl’s names 🙂

    And the great news is that I found the entire collection at the library here! Do check out the library in your area, who knows, you maybe able to find them there too…

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