I grew up in the seventies, so I was introduced to the Michael Landon/ Melissa Gilbert/Alison Arngrim version of Little House on the Prairie. Watching it was a ritual in my house growing up, and I loved it to pieces. I loved it so much that my first lunch box was a Little House on the Prairie Lunchbox (my brother got a Muppet Show one, we were very 1979). The Ingalls family was there on my lunchbox with their log cabin in the background.
It wasn’t until I was a little older — about fourth or fifth grade that I discovered my beloved TV show was based on a book. On a series of books actually, only one of which was named Little House on the Prairie. My aunt gave me my paperback copy of Little House on the Prairie, by one Laura Ingalls Wilder and I was hooked. I spent the summer reading the entire series, and drawing parallels to my favorite television show.
As I grew up, I encountered other Little House fans, and I don’t know one that doesn’t smile when they utter the words “Little House”. Most of them are the fond the show, but have a firm allegiance to the books. The Little House series was probably my first experience of comparing literature to film and television adaptations. One might think, from the television series, that Laura spent her life in Walnut Grove, but nothing could be further from the truth. Laura and her family moved throughout the western mid-west, as it’s outlined in the Little House Books.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading Little House in the Big Woods (the first in the series, and written at a lower reading/comprehension level than the others) several times to kindergarten classes over the years, and each time it’s a treat. What I’ve noticed though, as I’ve re-read the series as an adult is my growing admiration for Ma. Ma kept it together as they crossed rushing rivers with their small children in the back of the wagon. She gave birth on the frontier. She packed up the wagon countless times, often leaving within 24 hours of Pa deciding it was time to move to greener pastures. She fought off Indians and was ready to shoot wolves. She did all of this with very little female companionship, and certainly got no sympathy.
I cannot wait to share these books and the television series with my daughter. I’ve already slated our Little House themed vacation for 2015, taking this article I read in Family Fun as inspiration. I’m sure my husband and son won’t mind. Or maybe that will be the week they choose to go do some father/son bonding some place else.