Many people think of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books as a series for girls. But is it true? Jonathan Yardley wrote about Wilder’s books his “Second Reading” series in the Washington Post and recalled how much he had enjoyed Little House on the Prairie and Little House in the Big Woods as a child:
“What surprises me a bit in thinking back to my own reaction to these books as a boy is that it seems to have made no difference at all that girls, not boys, were at the center of these stories. Most of my favorite books were about boys — Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, Thomas Bailey Aldrich’s The Story of a Bad Boy, Booth Tarkington’s Penrod and Sam — but I remember with great affection, even if I can remember neither the title nor the author, a memoir of a girlhood spent in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park, and as my reading habits advanced I thought Little Women a much better book than Little Men, which of course it is.
“I say this not in order to lay claim to preternaturally premature feminism, but to make the point that Wilder’s books are open and accessible to readers of both sexes. The girls whom she portrays are thoroughly feminine, but they also know how to load guns and do chores in and out of the house. Indeed, the chief trouble with the Laura Ingalls Wilder industry as it now exists is that it idealizes the girls of the frontier far more than Wilder did. The front cover of my copy of Little House in the Big Woods shows two cute-as-buttons girls in a bright, sunny woods, wearing clothes that look right out of Ralph Lauren. That may be good TV, but it’s bad Laura Ingalls Wilder.”
To read all of Yardley’s comments on Wilder, click here: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/07/AR2007110702595.html.
(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.