I'm posting this early because we'll be off to the Outer Banks of North Carolina this evening and we won't be back until mid-August.
When we asked our readers, which book of the Little House series was their favorite, The Happy Golden Years won by a landslide.
Not quite sixteen, Laura takes her first teaching job at the Brewster School twelve miles away from town. She had never been away from home before, and from the opening illustration to the opening paragraphs of the first chapter, we can see and read the apprehension Laura experienced.
"...Pa did not not say anything.
Sitting beside him on the board laid across the bobsled, Laura did not say anything, either. There was nothing to say. She was on her way to teach school.
Only yesterday she was a schoolgirl; now she was a schoolteacher. This had happened so suddenly."
Those who have read this book remember how homesick Laura was while she lived with Mr. and Mrs. Brewster and taught school. Most of her students were taller than she. And who could forget Laura's excitement at going home when Almanzo arrived to pick her up in his sleigh, or her dismay when she thought Almanzo would no longer come for her once she told him she would not be going riding with him after she returned home for good. But Almanzo continues driving her back and forth to the Brewster settlement, encouraging her because he knows how much she dreads going there.
Mary comes home from college in The Happy Golden Years, and we get to see and read what a young lady she has become and how many things she has accomplished while she was away.
Winter turns to spring and spring to summer. Almanzo and Laura go riding in his buggy and they attend singing school. But perhaps the best part of this book is Almanzo's surprise return on Christmas Eve. By this time, Almanzo and Laura are engaged to be married, and Almanzo, along with his brother Royal, had planned to spend the winter with his folks.
Late on Christmas Eve the snow had begun to fall again and when there was a knock at the door. Laura was struck speechless when she saw Almanzo on the other side. Almanzo comes bearing gifts and admits he didn't want to stay away so long.
Almanzo and Laura marry and settle into their "little gray home". The book ends with two verses from a song that Pa's fiddle often played:
"Golden years, are passing by, These happy, golden years."
It's nice to watch Almanzo and Laura's relationship develop in this book. We see a bit of the hero in Almanzo from The Long Winter, and there is nothing better than a romantic and unexpected return.