On her Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah Mackenzie makes no bones about it. She does NOT think Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books make a good first chapter-book read aloud.
They’re too boring, she says. Too much description, not enough action. You’ll lose interest, mom, she says. Listen to the audiobooks read by Cherry Jones, she says.
I’ve pooh-poohed Sarah’s advice regarding Laura since I first heard it. Laura, boring? I listened to my mother read them, then I read them myself over and over, then listened again as my older sister read them aloud to myself and my younger brothers and sister.
Two years ago, when Tirzah Mae was three, I read her Little House in the Big Woods. Last year, we read it again. Was it hard at times? Of course. I dare anyone with four children four and under to find reading chapter books aloud EASY. But it wasn’t because the Laura books are boring.
I still disagree with Mackenzie about reading the Little House books aloud. But I now completely AGREE with her about the magic of Cherry Jones’s narration.
You see, near the end of last year, we had some changes in our life that meant the kids and I were spending at least an extra two hours a week in the car. I know that for some of you, that doesn’t sound like much. But I’m a homebody and even the most extroverted mama is likely to be a bit overwhelmed by loading four children into carseats a minimum of six extra times a week.
I knew we needed something to help us manage that awful extra car time, something to help us escape. Honestly, I needed something to get me out of the pity-party-slash-anger-fest that I was simmering in every time I had to yet again disrupt my life and rush my kids through meals and pack them all in the car and waste all. that. time. in. the. car.
So I looked into audiobooks. I needed something that wasn’t too scary (since our Tirzah Mae is currently a sensitive soul), but that would interest both me AND the children. The Little House books it was.
And, oh. Oh. Oh! Cherry Jones’s narration is just wonderful. Listening to her is a delight (especially when she starts singing along to Pa’s fiddle!)
We listened to Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy in January. In February, in conjunction with Barbara’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge, we hoped to listen to Litte House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek but fell just a little short of completing the latter (Praise God for several days where, for one reason or another, I was able to leave the kids home while I did the driving, minimizing the disruption to the whole family!)
As part of Barbara’s challenge, I also read Old Town in the Green Groves by Cynthia Rylant, a fictionalized account of the Ingalls family’s time between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By The Shores of Silver Lake. I am glad that I read it, but I am also glad that Laura chose to skip over that period of her early life in her Little House books. It was a hard, hard time that Rylant only partially succeeds at making seem less difficult. Barbara also read that book this year and reviewed it at her blog – my thoughts were pretty similar to Barbara’s.
Thank you, Barbara, for the past decade(?) hosting the Little House Challenge. I and my children have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to revisit Laura each year. We’ll miss the challenge next year; but I think, thanks to several years of participating (and thanks to discovering Cherry Jones’s wonderful audio narrations of the Little House books), we’re not likely to have seen the last of Laura in our household :-)