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Little House in the Big Woods

by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Series: The Little House Books #1
238 pages, Biography/History
Reviewed by Jeanne

A winning autobiography of a young girl's life on the frontier of America.

Plot

The acclaimed, biographical "Little House on the Prairie" series starts out not on the prairie at all, but with Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura, and Baby Carrie in the woods of Wisconsin. This story chronicles their life there and the way they survive, largely isolated from the world.

Morality

Pa and Ma are good disciplinarians and reprimand (and sometimes spank) Mary and Laura when they disobey. Laura's uncles and aunts are not so conscientious and do not always punish their children when they ought; however, in most of the tales related, the child in question ends up with his just deserts in one way or another.

Spiritual Content

Laura and her family profess to be Christians, though actual theology does not factor in. Laura and Mary say their prayers before bed and the whole family attends church on Sundays, after which they must spend the day very quietly and without unnecessary work.

Violence

There is talk of wolves outside the house, but the bulldog Jack guards the door and keeps the family safe. Pa often goes hunting and shoots deer, bears, hogs, and the like, and then skins them; the process is not described in detail. Pa tells a story about his father, who was chased by a panther before managing to shoot it. A boy is stung repeatedly by yellow jackets, causing him to swell. There are somewhat frequent mentions of "tanning" and "tanning someone's hide" - that is to say, spanking them soundly - when children are naughty.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Sexual Content

The older women wear corsets and tie them as tightly as possible, and one mentions that Laura's father could "span her mother's waist with his hands" when they were married.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

Laura Ingalls Wilder, only Laura Ingalls at this point in the tale, is considered to be the "original" pioneer girl of America: not that other girls did not undergo the same things she did, but she was the first to write about them. "Little House in the Big Woods" tells both about the details and the adventures of her family's life in the northern wilds, shapes a fascinating tale of survival, and paints a picture of the American world in the mid-1800s.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Average rating: 3 stars
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