Saturday, January 17, 2009

Farmer Boy

The chapter book I am reading to my girls right now just happens to be Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved all the Little House books when I was growing up. I watched the show on television faithfully each week. Little House on the Prairie is the first chapter book I remember reading by myself. The girls loved Little House in the Big Woods when I read that to them, but were less enchanted with Little House on the Prairie which we stopped reading midway through. I tried not to care that a book that I loved so much was one they were just not into at all, and I am still hoping they will want to try it again someday. We are nearing the end of Farmer Boy and the girls are both liking it. However, I can see why they are finding parts of it not that exciting. This is a few paragraphs from the chapter titled Threshing:

"The flail had come off its handle and Father had put them together again. The flail was an ironwood stick, three feet long and as big around as a broom handle. It had a hole through one end. Its handle was five feet long, and one end was a round knob.
"Father put the strip of cowhide through the hole in the flail, and riveted the ends together to make a leather loop. He took another strip of cowhide and cut a slit in each end of it. He put it through the leather loop on the flail, then he pushed the slits over the knobbed end of the handle.
"The flail and its handle were loosely held together by the two leather loops, and the flail could swing easily in any direction."

I will be the first to admit that when I come to portions of Wilder's books that describe things I have no knowledge of or experience with I zone out. As I was reading this last night I couldn't help but wonder if my girls were listening to me read at all or if they even knew what I was reading about. I know I couldn't have described a flail or even identified one if I saw it.
The parts of the book that we enjoyed reading the most were the stories Laura includes - in this case about Almanzo's childhood. Last night we laughed out loud when Almanzo, Royal, Alice and Eliza Jane awoke on Christmas morning and rushed downstairs to open their presents. After exclaiming over their gifts their father called to them from the bedroom, asking what time it was. It was then that they realized they had all gone downstairs at 3:30 AM. Even though the family normally arose quite early, 3:30 AM was still the middle of the night!
Wilder's books are still favorites of mine from childhood. I want my children to love them like I do, yet I also recognize that there are parts of her writing that describe a way of life that my children have no connection to ability to envision what Wilder is writing about. So, I keep reading right through those parts, knowing there are some great stories about she includes about her life.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I loved these books growing up. I still do. I reread all but Farmer Boy last year--last February to be exact!

As a child, I liked the bits describing things that I was clueless about. The passages about head cheese for example (or pig bladders for that matter) have stayed with me. All the little details about cooking, washing, housekeeping, farming, reaping hay, etc. I wasn't bored by them. I loved 'learning' new things. Not that I'd ever be called upon to use this information.

I'm not saying that my response as a kid was "normal." Or even particularly contemporary. I was a kid in the 80s who LOVED the tv show and wanted to grow up to be Laura Ingalls Wilder and marry Almanzo. (Sweet Sixteen being one of the best, best, best episodes ever. "How'd you like to dance with a teacher" See I told you I'm not "normal"!!

Anyway, I know I'm rambling. Sorry about that ;)