Little House in the Big Woods

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US hardcover, first edition.

Little House In the Big Woods is children's book about a young girl living in the Wisconsin Big Woods forest in the early 1870s. The semi-fictional biography is written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published in 1932 and begins the Little House series of books. The story centers around five-year-old Laura, but includes her whole family: older sister Mary, younger sister Carrie, her ma Caroline, and her pa Charles.


This has been a cherished book of mine ever since my mother read it to my siblings and me as a child. I also remember it being part of the reading material for a grade school class (2nd, I think) though I wasn't at a high enough reading level to read it. It was the first book of any length that I read completely by myself, and I've since read it about a dozen times including an audio book I finished in the fall of 2017. Even though it uses a very basic writing style, I still appreciate it more than any other book in the series.

I own a badly-worn paperback copy of this book and have read it many times. I have also listened to an audio book read by Cherry Jones.


— This section contains spoilers! —


  • The book remains interesting from cover to cover.
  • Wilder successfully captures the world view of a small child. The book is all about how a five-year-old girl sees the world through play, pretend, and minimal responsibilities, but also all the dangers and fears.
  • I really enjoy all the descriptions of frontier life in the late 1800s including how food was prepared, how chores were done, and how children played. It's such an alien world of manual labor devoid of electricity and plumbing.
  • I enjoy the inclusion of songs throughout the book.
  • The charcoal illustrations by Garth Williams are fantastic.


  • Through most of my life, I assumed that this book was an accurate memoir of the childhood of Laura Ingalls, but I was disappointed to learn that portions of the book were modified to be more interesting or made up entirely.
  • I wish the book included sheet music because there are several songs I'm not familiar with, and would like to know the tune.
  • The initial wood-block illustrations by Helen Sewell don't really fit a children's book.


  • The book serves as a reminder of just how acceptable child abuse and racism were, not just when Laura was a child, but even as an adult when the book was published. There are several instances of parents beating their children, forcing gender norms on children, and one of the songs Pa sings, Uncle Ned, is particularly racist.




Cover to Cover episode.


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