It’s the age of negotiated bedtime reading. My husband and I oblige, and tonight we read from “Little House in the Big Woods,” the first installment of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fictionalized autobiography. We take turns reading: Alice reads, then I do, then Scott does. Then Alice reads again. It’s never enough.
What draws her in? A lot of things. The characters are mostly female, young, and strong. Laura herself begins “Little House” at four, an age that wins our daughter’s ready empathy. Not unlike the first volume of “Harry Potter,” “Little House in the Big Woods” introduces an unknown world; done properly, that’s always exciting. As generations already know, the story is clean and earnest, without affectation or smarm. And it’s told in words that Alice can read all on her own—a great confidence builder.
It’s sometimes hard to fathom, though, just how different Laura’s life was from our own: churning butter, salting meat, boiling down maple syrup… Megan McArdle discussed all this in a recent piece for Bloomberg. The “Little House” books open up a lost world for today’s kids—and for today’s adults: