The Books That Shape Us: Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the PrairieFrom time to time, Bas Bleu’s editors will share with you some of the books that have had a profound impact on our lives. They won’t necessarily be grand literary classics or hard-hitting political tomes. They will be books that have stayed with us over the years and shaped who we are. If you’d like to share a significant title from your own life, feel free to do so in the comments section below.

This week, Bas Bleu’s senior buyer and reviewer AG tells us about a treasured reading experience from her childhood:

As an only child, I know how valuable books can be in providing companionship. But, when I reflect on my youth, the formative reading experience that stands out involves forging a deeper connection between me and another (real!) person.

When I was around eight years old, my mother suggested that we read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie together. Every night we’d snuggle up in my twin bed, taking turns reading aloud from the novel. It was a perfect activity for those in between years—I was a little too old to be read a bedtime story, but I still craved the comfort of the routine.

Our goal was a chapter a night, but Mom would usually give in to my plea for just one more. Soon we’d devoured the first installment of young Laura’s hardscrabble pioneering life, but neither of us was ready to leave the loving fold of the Ingalls family—or to give up our special time together. So we picked up the next book in the series, and eventually read our way through all eight Little House titles

There’s something very intimate about reading to someone else. When it was my turn to read, noticing my mother enjoying the story helped give me confidence in my own voice. When my mom read, I’d close my eyes and picture the characters in my mind, pulling the covers tighter during the severe winter scenes, tearing up at Mary’s strength during her suffering, laughing when mean Nellie Oleson got her due. Reading the books together also gave us an entry to discuss issues that went beyond the printed page: friendship, love, grieving, and sacrifice.

My daughter turns three soon, and our bedtime reading fare consists of such books as Good Night Moon, Little Golden Books, Curious George, and the like. The nightly story time is a ritual I cherish. As my baby girl seems to be growing up so quickly, it’s comforting to see my old dog-eared paperbacks of the Little House series on her bookshelf, to know that I’ll be able to extend that special time just a little bit longer.

6 thoughts on “The Books That Shape Us: Little House on the Prairie

  1. I was born in 1950, so one of the book series which shaped me you may not find familiar. The Mary Poppins books were my favorite, and I collect them now to share with my grandchildren (the oldest of which is not yet three). The other was a series of silly stories about a woman named Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald. They opened my world to wonder and possibility. I also enjoyed My Father’s Dragon, which I believe was a series. When my own daughter was young, I came across an old copy of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in a used bookstore and gave it to her. She loved the stories as much as I did, The copy sits on the bookshelf of her yet to be born (two weeks!) daughter. I don’t think young children are any different now than they have always been, and I am certain my grandchildren will find her as delightful as I did.

    • Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories, Beth. We actually carried Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in one of our earliest catalogs! We’ll have to check out My Father’s Dragon.

  2. Yes, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books were an important part of my childhood too. But another set of books I liked were by Edward Eager: “Half Magic,” “Magic by the Lake,” and “Knight’s Castle.” They were funny, and magical, and I checked them out of the library often, reading them over and over. Years later I found out Edward Eager wrote four more books. I read them then, and wished my library had carried them when I was a child. But it’s never too late for magic!

  3. I, too, read Laura’s adventures while growing up. Now I live on her prairie, daily hearing about the places she wrote about in the last four books. When I go camping with my kids, we read her books aloud. It has become ritual. Once everyone is settled down in the tent for the night, I open up my nook and read. Inevitably, I think everyone has drifted off, but when I put the nook away, I hear three voices say in dismay, “You’re done?” The other books that shaped me as a child were Ms. Oke’s Love Comes Softly series. When I am in need of grounding, these two series are what I reach for!

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