Saturday, February 16, 2013

Farmer Boy

I’ve been reading Farmer Boy to the kids.  It begins in winter, which is fitting to begin reading it together in January.  Personally, Farmer Boy and Little House in the Big Woods are my favorite of all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series.  I’ll explain why shortly.

While I’ve been reading Farmer Boy aloud, I’ve gone back and read By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years to myself.  Folks, there’s a whole different perspective re-reading these stories as an adult!

The kids play this little game that they “invented” as we read books and stories: midway through the story or at the story’s end, they say, “I wanna be _________.”  And now, they quickly “call” whom they want to be before the other one “calls it.”  Funny isn’t it. Isn’t that how we all read books and stories, though?!  We read self-reflectively.  Occasionally, I get a “Momma, I do NOT want to be __________.”  So subversively, we’re interpreting positive and negative character traits through the characters we read.

So where am I going with this?  Well, Farmer Boy has always been my favorite because, instinctively, I would have much rather lived with the Wilder family on a New England farm than with the Ingalls family out in the middle of nowhere Kansas or nowhere South Dakota.  And after getting through The Long Winter (which could also be called the long, cold story), I’m wondering if I would rather be a lady’s maid on Downton Abbey, working those long, grueling hours, than be Laura Ingalls Wilder.  At least the lady’s maid could live in the warm “big house” without starving!

Don’t misunderstand me, though.  As a little girl, I absolutely LOVED reading all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tales!  And now as an adult, I've delighted in re-reading them.  There is a new fascination and appreciation gained in re-reading her stories.  One thing that stands out is the remarkable way she remembers and retells a story for children.  And in retelling her husband’s story in Farmer Boy (and his “side” in The Long Winter, etc.), it became clear to me that we don’t share the oral stories of our own lives with our children enough.  I also questioned if we’re creating story-telling moments in our daily lives.  Let’s face it, we can’t create a book about: “Well, all I did today was play Pac-Man on Atari, and then when I was bored of that, I watched hours of MTV, and then I went to soccer practice, came home, ate, and went to bed.”  For as difficult and mundane as the Wilder’s lives were, they have incredible stories to share!

So my challenge to you, readers, is this: if you’re a young reader, pick up one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books (there are 9-11 to choose from) and read it.  If you’re an adult, pick up one of Wilder’s books and re-read it.  And please come back to and share with our readers about your experience reading these tales of life from a bygone era.

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