Little House and LIW in my life: Part One

As a young girl of about eight years old, I became obsessed with all things to do with the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  To note, by that time I’d seen a handful of the television show episodes (I saw more of them the next year when a local channel started carrying syndicated reruns.) The show’s original run was nearly coming to an end by then.  Anyway, I’d seen enough to know that the tv show was really nothing like the books, and had already become a separate entity in my mind.  (I know there are still people out there who think the events and people in the tv show are the complete real-life truth.)

When I was five years old, my mother read Farmer Boy aloud to my brothers and I.  The chapter that sticks out the most in my memory is when Almanzo and his siblings are left alone for the week to mind the house and farm on their own.  They use up almost all of the sugar making and eating sweets, and Eliza Jane has to repair the parlor wallpaper from where the blacking brush hit the wall after Almanzo threw it.

A couple of years later, I borrowed Little House in the Big Woods from the Wanamaker Branch of the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library.   I remember really enjoying it, and then borrowed Little House on the Prairie.  I was reading ahead of where they had me in reading group in elementary school.  (My fourth grade teacher finally recognized that I could read very well, and moved me up to where I should be – in the highest reading group.  It was just previously – in first grade – I was so shy and nervous that sometimes my speaking/reading aloud was not great, but it was just nerves! Same in second and third grades. . . even though I was reading chapter books on my own silently just fine.)  In fact, I usually read the entire reading text books at the beginning of the school year, and it was pretty borrowing the remainder of the time.  

Anyway, I digress. 

I think steadily read the whole little house series so that by the summer I was nine I was re-reading the whole series.  I had my favorite titles.  I have shared one or two of my favorites in the past on this blog.   I still think Little Town on the Prairie was and is one of my absolute favorites of the series.  I loved seeing Laura growing up and having some fun with friends and family.  This book also is not quite as bleak as some of the others.  As an adult, I think I appreciate the later books in the series as well because apparently Rose (Wilder Lane) may not have done quite as much work on them.  Rose did a great job shaping the books, etc, but according to Pamela Smith Hill, author of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Rose simply did not have the time or energy to put quite as much time into re-writing her mother’s stories later on as she did with the first books in the series.  
I have more to say about the books, and also about my visits to a couple of the home sites over the years, but  I will tackle those things in a future post!

The Babysitters Club Turns 40?

This has probably already been said, but if my calculations are correct and reasonably close, the girls in the Babysitters Club will be turning 40 this year or have already just recently turned 40. 

Way back in 1986 when the first BSC book was published, calculating as I always do and did when I read a book – if there’s no time frame given, we can assume it takes place in the present.   When I was eleven in 1986, the original four girls of the Babysitters Club were twelve years old, more or less.   So they were approximately a year older than me! 

I read many of the earlier books even though at the time I was also already reading YA fiction, and some adult nonfiction by age eleven. I had tested at a higher reading level in school, as well.  However, I saw these books at the library, and could read each one in a hour and a half or less.   I liked the idea of girls being friends and organizing their babysitting together. (I just had no idea it would become a series of well over a hundred books that would eventually be ghost-written after a while.  Ann M. Martin did not write all of them.) 

Anyway, if the girls hadn’t been stuck in 8th Grade for thirteen or more years, they would be turning 40 this year! They should have well-established lives.  I am curious.  I have found some fan fiction online, but some of it is just plain weird (and rather badly written.)  Some of those people have answers for what happened to the characters.  I have liked none of those stories, really.

According to this link, Ann M. Martin had somewhat vague things to say about where the BSC girls would be now.   It doesn’t tell us if they got married, had children, specific careers, etc. 

Here is in interesting (and more detailed) take on where the characters would be now:

I might attempt to write up my own “where they are now” descriptions. I also wonder if they would all be on Facebook as well, and what their profiles would look like.  (Although the second link I have included above says that Mary Anne does not know how to use the Internet . . . I find that impossible to believe.  Really, if Mary Anne is keeping the photos of her children safe from fire, she will learn how to use the internet to make sure everything is also digitally-stored and backed up!  Hmm, I will have to write my own version of their futures – in the future.)

When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour

When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour (Published in 1958.)
Juvenile/YA Fiction

I was 13 or so when I first read this book.  That is perhaps a little over the intended audience age . . . but when I discovered it, I HAD to read it.   As I have said in a previous post, I was once a meteorology major.  I liked anything weather and/or disaster-related even then.  

I also have to note that I appreciate the fact that this takes place in the Netherlands and relates what could be the story of some of my ancestors.  At age 13, I did not have much interest in family history . . . that interest was sparked around age 19 (a little maturity never hurts.)   My great-great-grandmother’s family left the Netherlands – one of the island-like areas that were made, in fact, by the dikes – in the late 1880s after their land was flooded a number of times.  They were farmers and shepherds, and the flooded land did not help them make a good living.   They send my great-great grandmother Blazina with two of her siblings to relatives in Wisconsin, and then they came later with their youngest (living) child.  (Blazina’s parents had at least ten babies, but several of them did not survive infancy.  A couple of them were recorded as being born still.)

So this book has given me interesting insight into the lives of my ancestors . . . except for the scenes involving helicopter, of course!  It takes place during the flooding of 1953.  The main character is 13-year-old Lisa Van Rossem.   The book opens with all of the family gathered around sharing their greatest wishes.  They go to bed, and then awaken in the night to half of their house already under water.  They must get up to the attic if they are to survive.  At some point they must get up on the roof.  Suddenly Tante Anna, who is pregnant, is swept off the roof into the water.   They now must all go out in boats and search for her.   Some of them do that while some of the men go to the dike and try to fill in the hole so the ocean will stop flooding their land!

In light of the flooding of 1953 (the failure of, in some cases, very old dikes), the Netherlands has rebuilt their levee system to be the best in the world according to this article:

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowery

TitleA Summer to Die

Author: Lois Lowery
Original Publication Date: 1977
Date I First Read: 1987ish
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction

Basic Summary:  Meg and Molly’s family have just moved out to the country.  Molly is popular while Meg is Meg.  Meg is into photography and such.  She becomes friends with the neighbors and is on hand when they birth their baby at home.  In the meantime, it has become obvious that Molly is terminally ill with leukemia.    Meg learns many lessons about life and death at a tender young age.  

Cover: This (above) is the paperback cover I remember seeing when I first read this book  Molly looks like a ghost already.  Either that, or it was this hardback book jacket cover (below.) 
What I Remember About the Book: I need to re-read this book!  I think I actually own a paperback copy, so I’ll have to dig it out and then re-write this post.   I remember Meg being there when the neighbors had their baby, and then 



her sister dies.  

Man, I really need to re-read this book!  It’s been at least 15 years since I last re-read it.   I don’t know it I want to.  Ever since we had our first son, and he died, I’ve been really sensitive to books where children and young people die.  

And yes, this book is completely superior to Lurlene McDaniel books . . . of which I was a fan as a pre-teen and young teen.  Yes, as a youth librarian, I have continued to read most of them.  I can’t see I’ve liked them all.  They never made me cry like A Summer to Die made me cry.  Therefore Ms. Lowery’s book is definitely superior.  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Title: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Authors: Judi Barrett
Original Publication Date: 1978
Date I First Read: Summer 1980ish
Basic Category: Children’s Fiction / Picture Book
Basic Summary:   The town of Chewandswallow has unusual weather with no need for grocery stores.  All of their food needs came in with the weather.  That is until things started going awry!  
What I Remember About the Book: The bacon and eggs in the tree before the weather took a turn for the worse, and after, the giant pancake (with syrup) on the school.  
What I Took Away From the Book: Weather can be really fun!  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Notes:  I have re-read this many times over the years.  I even bought a new copy for myself after the old copy from 1980ish from my cousin fell apart.  I have used this book for preschool storytimes. 

W is for Where the Sidewalk Ends

Title:  Where the Sidewalk Ends                
Author:  Shel Silverstein
Original Publication Date: 1974
Date I First Read: 1981
Basic Category: Poetry
Basic Summary: A collection of poetry, mainly intended for kids. 
What I Remember About the Book:
 The poems!  Some of my favorites were, back when I was around seven years old,
“Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Did Not Take the Garbage Out” and “Sick”.  These were the longest poems in the book, and at some point I set out to memorize them.
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Hall, introduced this book to our class.  She read us the poems first.  My aunt Sue gave me my very own copy of this book the next Christmas. It is still a prized book in my collection.

Quote: “I cannot go to school today / said little Peggy Ann McKay. / I have the measles, the mumps, a gash, rash, and purple bumps.”
What I Took Away From the Book:  Poetry is fun!  And that awful things could happen if you don’t take out the garbage!

(And April is National Poetry Month.)

Rating (1-5 stars):  5

T is for These Happy Golden Years

Title: These Happy Golden Years
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Original Publication Date: 1943
Year I First Read:  1984
Category: Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Teen/YA Fiction, Historical Fiction

Basic Summary:  In the beginning of the story, Laura is on the way to her first teaching job, which is away from home.  Every week in the cold and snow, Almanzo comes to pick Laura up and take her home to her family.  Later, Laura returns to going to school in town, and many more events take place until the end of the book when she marries Almanzo.
What I remember:  This is hard to say I have re-read this book so often since then.  I was nine-ish when I first read it, though, after I had read the rest of the Little Series over the previous two years or so.  Several things made the biggest impression on me when I first read it, though.   One is when May came home from college in Iowa to visit. Another is the chapter with the tornado with three funnels that kills a boy and two donkeys.   Another is when Laura and Ma are preparing Laura’s clothes for her wedding.   
What I Took Away From the Book:  Don’t go riding out in the country in a buggy when there might be a tornado.  Your true love might show up at the door with wild horses to be broken.  If you are teaching school for the first time, don’t stay in a house with knives.  And finally, life can be difficult, but it gets better. 
Rating (1-5 Stars): 5 Stars (Then and now.)