Christina Taylor's Reviews > Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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Aug 03, 12

bookshelves: childrens
Read in December, 2011

Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods is the first book of her series that has come to be known as the “Little House books.” The story, which is a year in the life of the author who is four years old at the book’s opening, is set in 1871 and mainly occurs in a little log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin where the protagonist lives with Ma, Pa, her older sister Mary, and her baby sister Carrie. The intricate black and white line art of Garth Williams and the green and white gingham endpages compliment the image of the simple beauty and dignity of pioneer life that the text works so hard to cultivate. Nonetheless, the story is rather oddly told from a third person limited point of view that focuses on Laura. Consequently, Wilder serves as both the narrator and main character yet she scrupulously avoids referring to her experiences in the first person, choosing to instead effect a childish sense of awe and wonder that an adult who nostalgically looks back on her childhood would “remember.” Although pioneer life is harsh and largely spent acquiring and stockpiling enough food to sustain the family, this so-called naive narrator fails to recognize these truths and their significance, conflicting with the awareness that would surely have been possessed by the adult author living in the early twentieth century. Moreover, Laura is a static character who ages in the course of the story but does not change, and the plot’s lacks of a character arc further contributes to its inability to create an authentic voice that rings true with a reader who looks beyond the starry-eyed innocent and questions what she does not. In short, Little House in the Big Woods provides an interesting context for historical facts but not an insight into universal truths spanning the ages.
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