Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Visiting My Old Friend Laura Ingalls Wilder


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"A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity, and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon, and by moonlight." ~ Robertson Davies

I ran across this quote recently and have been thinking about it. There are many books I’ve read over and over through the years, books I love and books I’ve taught or wanted to share the experience with others.  Of course, if I’m sharing the experience or teaching them, I need to read them again during the process. The first book that comes to mind is Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I’ve written about it before and how it changed my life. If you missed that post, please click here.

Animal DreamsOf Mice and Men is a book I taught as well, so it was read over and over during the process. Other books I’ve taught that I enjoyed reading many times – Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (my brother-in-law George’s favorite apocalyptic novel), Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Bean Treesby Barbara Kingsolver (I really need to write a blog about her works. I once signed up for a three-day workshop on Animal Dreams just so I would have an excuse to re-read it!), Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and, of course, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. There were others, but these pop easily to mind. They are all great books and it was always a pleasure to revisit them. But that isn’t really the intent of what Robertson Davies said, is it?

The Complete Little House Nine-Book SetSince I’m already in my old age (okay, maybe 65 isn’t exactly OLD, but it’s well past just maturing), I tried to think of something I had read as a child and again as an adult, that would be worthy of being designated “truly great.” I’ve lighted on the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read them, all more than once, as a child. When I found myself the mother of two daughters, I bought the whole set so I could share them with my daughters. I read them when I was around thirty and enjoyed them at least as much as I had as a child. I remember being surprised at how much I enjoyed them as an adult. They were so well written and the stories were every bit as compelling as I had remembered. Granted, I grew up in the Midwest and have an affinity for the place of the stories. I also love to be transported to other times, and Wilder does an exceptional job of that.

It’s time for another reading of the books. Now I write for children, so I will bring a new perspective to my reading. I also have a granddaughter who is just about ready to read these wonderful books, so I have another opportunity to share the experience. I will be putting this set of books on my summer reading list and will report back at some point in the future about the experience. I would do it now, but I’m leaving in a couple of days for a writing workshop (you'll be hearing about that next time) and will be quite busy. I also have some book reviews that will be due soon, but I will get back to the Little House soon.

What books did you read as a child that deserve another look wherever you are in the life process? Why do you feel compelled to choose that book or those books? 

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to say the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I read them several times as a grade schooler. Also being from the area, plus having the name Laura made them seem like they were written just for me. Reading your blog. Has made me want to read them again. Thank you for reminding me about these wonderful books.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I'm with Anonymous. I loved the Wilder books. My family moved a lot, and in each new place, I'd immediately go to the library and check out one of the Little House books, and I read them over and over. Your post made me realize that it's time for ME to revisit that series and kick back and enjoy the books all ove again.

Michelle Fayard said...

Rosi, I agree 100 percent with your opening quote. I have a small collection of favorite books that I re-read every year or two, not only because I love them but because I enjoy savoring the subtle differences of how they make me feel as the years go by.

Some of the books include Jane Langton's The Diamond in the Window, a wonderful blend of literary quotes and philosophy woven delicately through a mystical adventure, Madeleine L'Engles' A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, for also having deep philosophical insights deftly woven into the plot, C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, for much the same reason, Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond, my favorite historical novel, and of course Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series.

Thanks for a great post!

Anonymous said...

I loved and read all the Laura Ingalls books and the ones that came out after her death. I have the set like you have and I will read them to my grandkids too. I always was hoping Laura would get that Nellie, but as I recall it never happened.
I liked her writting style you could use your imagination and be right there in the story. There has been talk that Rose her daughter was the ghost writter in these books. I dont know what to think it might be true though. linda knutson

Rosi said...

Thanks for all your comments. It looks like I've chosen a popular favorite. And thanks, Linda, for signing your comment. When one comes through as anonymous, I don't have any way of know who it is. So, Anonymous #1, which Laura are you?

Morgan said...

A lifelong companion for me has been, "The Wind in the Willows," by Kenneth Grahame. Arthur Rackham's illustrations were an integral part of the experience, since I first had it read aloud before I could read, and Rackham's wildwood, gypsy cart, and peaceful river are a part of that imagination. I kind of agree with a minister who said from the pulpit that the "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" chapter was the best theology he knew after the Bible. Next would probably be "The Lord of the Rings." Though I didn't come upon it until I was a college freshman. I've read that in a dorm, in a mountain cabin during a blizzard, by the light of a coleman lantern while Mary and I were traveling in the southwest, and again in this decade before each of the movies.

This was a good post and will prompt me to take a look at classics I may have forgotten to mention as well as others I haven't yet read.

Myrl said...

I seldom re-read a book, although I have walls of books that I intend to, someday. For me, it is mostly fantasy and science-fiction, although there is another sub-genre that was for many years, the most remembered. I loved Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, and a French book about a small girl who runs away and lives on her own in the forest. Alas, most of my books are now being given away. All the children's books went to a young man who was just starting to teach in the 5th grade. I wanted to encourage him to read aloud to his students. The paper backs are finding a home in a local store, one carton full at a time. Soon it will be the hardbacks--mostly natural history I discover, and those go to the library book den for resale. Granddaughter has asked for cookbooks, and I will soon be left with family albums and the many volumes of my journal. Acquiring books is so easy. Getting rid of them is so hard.

Dawn Lairamore said...

Love the Little House books!! And yes, there is something about Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories that transcend age. I still have the copies my parents bought me when I was eight. They're old and frayed and starting to look a little worse for wear, and I still pull them out from time to time to re-live Laura's journeys in a little covered wagon. Her story is just as magical and exciting to me now as it was back then.

Rosi said...

Morgan, I am going to get The Wind in the Willows and see if it resonates at this late stage for me. Myrl, you have it right. It is so hard to get rid of books! I am trying as well to rid myslef of some books, but it's ridiculously difficult. I love that you gave your children's books to a starting teacher. What a great gift. Dawn, Wilder seems to do it for most of the female readers I know, even though we are generations apart.

Margaret Duarte said...

Hi Rosi. Enjoy your writer's workshop. I'm anxious to hear about it.

Robin said...

Curling up by the winter fire, I too, delighted in all of the Little House adventures. Many years later, my students did also. You've brought back to life titles dear to me, Rosi. I must also voice one more enchanting and beloved novel amidst many, L.M. Alcott's, _Little Women_. This classic will forever capture my heart (and that of my three sisters as well). Thank you for the fond memories of cherished books, Rosi.

Rosi said...

Little Women is such a delight. Thanks for reminding us, Robin. What a treat it will be to revisit that book. I'm putting it on my summer reading list.

Eric Baldwin said...

When I was in the second grade, my teacher would read us "Little House in the Big Woods". Sadistically, he would do so right before lunch. Hearing the descriptions of food at the height of our hunger was excruciating. To this day, I can't think of Laura Ingalls Wilder without my stomach growling.

Maeve Frazier said...

The Wilder books are among my favorites. I recently reread The Five Little Peppers books. They were a favorite as a young child. Something about reading as an adult the books you read as a child, brings such comfort. Love your website!

Rosi said...

It sounds like many have be affected by Wilder, good or growlingly. I don't remember if I ever read the Five Little Peppers books. Maybe I'll give those a try. Thanks for the comments.