When I was 9 years old, I wrote a formal letter of protest to my elementary school librarian because the Little House on the Prairie books were shelved under fiction, rather than biography where I rightfully thought they should be. Mrs. Watson (I remember her still--an ancient woman who had those really skinny fingers and big knuckles so that her rings slid all around) gently explained that Laura had changed some of the facts of her up-bringing in order to make her stories more...well, story-like.
So, now, I applaud Laura more than ever for being able to infuse what was really an ordinary, and rather difficult existence, and turn it into timeless story. Her books embody a certain grace and mercy--a willingness to forgive what was denied to her, and an eagerness to hi-light the blessings. Warmth, food, shelter, music--these luxuries crowd the pages, making it impossible to imagine there were any times of trepidation. Even The Long Winter, easily the darkest book in the series (and, my favorite), comes forth as a triumph of the family, rather than the tragedy it played in the on-going health of her younger sisters. The picture here was taken just after the end of that winter. Look how tiny these girls are--but then, look at that balled-up fist at Laura's side. This is a girl determined to fight, destined to live well beyond her years.
Do yourself a favor. If you don't already have a copy of the books stashed somewhere in your house, go to your local library and spend an hour in Laura's world.
6 years ago