So I picked up Little House in the Big Woods with some level of trepidation. The interesting thing to me about reading children's book now is having the capacity to evaluate the writing choices of the author and the ability to step back a little and put the book into a historical context, as well as imagining the adult perspective of the child's view.
I've decided that Beverly Cleary and Laura Ingalls Wilder are essentially the same books. What both authors do well is to focus on the family as a unit, and the smallest child's place in that family. They remind the reader of how special it feels to be inside a circle of love - the love a child feels for her parents, the love of a family together.
One night this summer I was reading aloud from Little House in the Big Woods and got to this passage:
[Pa] had curried the horses until they shone. He had swept the wagon box clean and laid a clean blanket on the wagon seat. Ma, with Baby Carrie in her arms, sat up on the wagon seat with Pa, and Laura and Mary sat on a board fastened across the wagon box behind the seat.
They were happy as they drove through the springtime woods. Carrie laughed and bounced, Ma was smiling, and Pa whistled while he drove the horses. The sun was bright and warm on the road. Sweet, cool smells came out of the leafy woods.
As I read I could picture the little family setting off on their adventure. In the back of my mind, I was admiring Laura (or Rose's) ability to set a scene so vividly with so few words, while also wishing I was riding along with them.
Suddenly, Elizabeth interrupted me with an outburst: "Oh, I want to be them!"