Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’ve been reading C&I The Little House in the Big Woods.  The Laura Ingalls Wilder books were a big deal in my family.  My cousin Laura was named after her; I read the books at least as much/often as I did the Lord of the Rings saga, in a somewhat similar pattern, too: probably read The Hobbit and The Little House in the Big Woods the most, those two classics of coziness, and trailed off towards the end of the two series as the scope widened to an increasingly larger and more adult world.   I think as a boy reader I found more to relate to in the earlier books with all the bears and hunting and boy-scoutish activities.  Sarah commented to me that Pa is a somewhat risky model of fatherhood for me to expose to the girls.  “I mean, he hunts, builds houses, smokes meat, carves wooden toys, rides horses…” “Yes, but does he blog cleverly???” I responded not at all defensively.  I don’t see Sarah churning butter or sewing all the family’s clothes, anyway (although admittedly she’d be much more likely to do that than I would be to build my own meat smoker in the backyard).

C&I love the book.  They’re especially interested in the Mary/Laura dynamic: Laura’s the younger one with brown hair who is jealous of her sister’s golden curls.  (This led to a discussion of hair color in which Iris declared that “mommy’s hair is brickish red.”)  And of course they’re fascinated by life in a cabin with nearly everything you use something you make yourself, and with bears and panthers prowling around.  It’s a very appealing depiction of an entirely self-sufficient, self-enclosed family life, although I keep thinking that one winter like that in the one-room cabin (with a baby and two young girls) would drive me screaming to the town (pop. 150 at most?) by the lake in Pepin, Michigan.

The other night we read one chapter, and also read Margaret Wise Brown’s The Little Fur Family, which we own in a tiny, faux-fur-covered edition.  As we read it I suddenly realized that the illustrations were by Garth Williams, who also illustrated The Little House in the Big Woods, and that they’re very similar stories, all about hunkering down in your cozy home for the winter, but from the bears’ point of view!  (Assuming the little fur people are bears, I guess it’s more ambiguous.)  Just look — Pa practically is a member of the Little Fur Family on a larger scale: