Thursday, December 27, 2012

Little House, Long Shadow Book Discussion - Chapter 5

After focusing her attention on the Little House books in the classroom, author Anita Clair Fellman turns her attention to readers at home. She quotes many fan letters to Wilder where readers shared how much the Little House books meant to them. She goes on to discuss, like she did in the previous chapter, about activities based upon the books that readers partake in. This chapter goes a bit further, adding in the evolution of the Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder home sites and the annual events dedicated to Wilder's legacy.

This chapter gets into a larger discussion about the Little House on the Prairie television show from the 70s and 80s and its role in renewing interest in the books, and the desire to learn more about the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Chapter five briefly revisits how Native Americans are portrayed in the books, and how Wilder's books helped create a mythical, romantic idea of the settling of the West. One Native American reader found how Indians were depicted so disturbing that he wouldn't read them to his children, knowing he would need to interrupt the story to provide "editorial asides."

Fellman indicates by examples that non-white readers had a harder time relating to Laura and her family than their white counterparts, and how relating to Laura makes a powerful connection for readers, which creates a special place in their hearts for Wilder's books. This chapter also discusses the appeal of the Little House books to homeschooling families.

As this chapter proves, fans love the books for a variety of reasons.

My thoughts: This is probably my favorite chapter from the book, so far. While we owned the entire Little House series, it wasn't until Michael Landon brought Wilder's books to life on the small screen that I had any interest in learning more. And at that time, I preferred the television show to the books. I tried reading Little House on the Prairie and couldn't finish it. As a young adult, I would sit down with the Little House books again, starting at the beginning, and then reading the rest of the books before moving on to Donald Zochert's Laura to learn more about Wilder's real life. This created a life-long curiosity of anything about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family.

Getting a chance to learn why people love the books was wonderful. I was a bit surprised by how non-white readers viewed them, because in ways, children are similar, so I thought they would connect on some plain. Not always so.

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