A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
While the harsh realities of everyday life on the frontier are glossed over to keep the book age appropriate, the story is packed with details about food, clothes, farming, and more.
Hard work and good character are held in high regard, but so is kindness and a mischievous twinkle in your eye. Family, and creating a good life together, is a big theme.
Positive Role Models
The adults here are loving and committed to their families, if a bit formal. You won't find Ma cracking jokes or even taking a day off.
Violence & Scariness
Twice in the story, children are whipped for being disobedient, and there are several hunting scenes that could be tough for sensitive readers. Guns are present but as part of hunting and survival and are in context.
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Occasional use of racist terms, such as "darkey" and "Injun." Although in the story they're not intended to be insulting, they'll strike today's readers as offensive.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there's a reason Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods is a beloved classic. It's warmly crafted with characters who come to life and lots of details about frontier life, based on the author's own childhood in Pepin, Wisconsin, in the early 1870s. Some of the most interesting scenes are when young Laura describes the long process of making food, such as cheese and bread, that we take for granted, along with our ability to store meat in refrigerators. There are moments, though, when the writing reflects too well 19th-century ideas about gender and race (mentions of "darkey" and "Injun," for example). And the notion that children should be seen and not heard is laughable these days. This first installment in the series is gentler than the rest and so could reach a slightly younger audience. Each chapter is a self-contained story about the Ingalls family, so it could be read aloud to young readers or would not be too challenging for those new to chapter books.
Is It Any Good?
This charming classic gives readers a vivid idea of frontier life and stresses the value of working together as a family. The theme that runs throughout Little House in the Big Woods is that life is hard and serious work, but that it's OK to have fun at times and important to keep a twinkle in your eye. There's much about young Laura's life that readers will find foreign: that children should be seen and not heard, that one small rag doll is the best Christmas gift ever, that hot potatoes in pockets and irons from the fire are the way to be warm when heading home from your cousins' house.
This installment is gentler than the rest of the Little House books, and the sexist and racist ideas that pop up throughout the series are mostly absent here. Children do get whipped twice, and there's a huge emphasis on children being obedient, but in Little House, it's wrapped in kindness.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.