Ruth and I have spent the summer working our way through Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie. I loved these books as a child and I love sharing them with Ruth. I’ve heard and read various modern criticisms of the books. There is the whole “true” story issue of the Ingalls family and the ongoing argument over who really wrote the books (Laura or her daughter Rose Wilder Lane). I suppose those are valid and interesting arguments especially for books that have become such iconic pictures of American girlhood. However, I haven’t really been engaged in the controversies. Maybe it’s anti-intellectualism to admit this but whether Laura really wrote every word or whether she sugar-coated her childhood doesn’t make me enjoy the books any less. The other criticism I’ve read is that of racism, in particular in the Ingalls family attitudes towards Native Americans. I can see how reading the books as an adult can be troubling but I haven’t found it to be a big issue for us. When we read statements like “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” I stop and say “Hmmm…why do you think they would say that?” or “What do you think about that?” and we talk about it briefly and then we move on. I have found my kids are very capable of liking Laura and her family but realizing that they said and did things that we don’t agree with and that were wrong. I read the books on my own as a kid and I remember feeling bad for the Indians who were being forced off their land even as I also felt bad for Laura’s family when they had to move at the end. Ruth is enjoying them also and looking forward to being able to watch the TV series that we have on DVD. I told her that we first had to read through On the Banks of Plum Creek, because the book always has to come first in our house.
The boys and I have been working our way through Lloyd Alexanders Chronicles of Prydain series. This is one that I somehow missed as a kid. I know we had the first book (The Book of Three) on the shelf but for some reason I didn’t think I liked it. No idea why. In some ways it’s too bad because I would have loved these when I was younger. However, it’s been really fun to discover them with the boys. We’re at a very exciting part of the fifth and final book, The High King. If you or your kids are a fan of fantasy these are a must read. They are also quite funny and beautifully written with vivid descriptions, wonderful characters and poetic language.
For Amy’s Newbery Challenge, my May selection was Elizabeth Enright’s Gone Away Lake. I decided to use it as our lunchtime book and we finally finished it a week or so ago. It seemed only right to pick the sequel, Return to Gone-Away for our next lunchtime book. I love Elizabeth Enright’s books, which are about as far from fantasy as you can get. My favorites will always be the Melendy series but these are also wonderful pictures of an ordinary childhood and all the extraordinary things that make that up. In some ways, reading these books is like being Portia and Julian and discovering the long-lost Gone-Away Lake. They portray a world that feels familiar and yet exotic in it’s old-fashionedness.
For our current audiobook we are listening to The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone. A friend recommended these mysteries to us when she heard we were going on vacation to Chicago. They take place in the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Two friends discover a key that gives them the ability to shink down to dollhouse size and explore these tiny miniature rooms. So far, this one feels kind of slow. We are enjoying it but it feels like not much has happened. I think that’s partially our fault as we’ve been listening in the car but for various reasons have had less time to listen so the story has become somewhat fractured for us. I would definitely recommend it though, especially for kids who like mysteries or are fascinated by other “little people” kinds of stories.
So that’s what we are reading together. What books have you been enjoying this summer? Head over to Hope is the Word to see what other people are reading and to share what your family is enjoying.