The “Little House” Books: A new collection looks back

A review in this morning’s “Review” section of The Wall Street Journal alerted me to the recent republication of one of my favorite childhood series, the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  This new collection of Wilder’s nine books is published in a two-volume edition with supplemental texts by Library of America.

The collection retails for $75, but Amazon Prime has it listed for $47.25.

My siblings and neighborhood playmates loved these books so much that one of our favorite childhood games was “pioneer.”  We made a covered wagon in our basement using clotheslines and a sheet.  An outdoor variation was the game of “boat” in our back yard, in which we were runaways floating along some body of water on our “raft,” which was a blanket secured to the ground against the breeze with bricks at its corners.

What appealed to us most about the “Little House” books was the resourcefulness of Laura’s family.  It was that same resourcefulness we found in The Boxcar Children, the Nancy Drew mysteries, and The Bobbsey Twins series. 

In fact, I’m starting to realize that “resourcefulness” is a running theme with me; it’s a quality I really like in a character.  I love Alfred Hitchcock’s films, and part of the appeal for me is how resourceful his characters are, something I’d never realized until the gazillionth time I’d watched Marnie

In that film’s opening minutes (watch for Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo at the five-minute mark), Marnie’s employer, Mr. Strutt, is reporting her crime to the police (she has cleaned out the company safe and skipped town).  When important client Mark Rutland (played by Sean Connery) stops by, Strutt expresses to him his anger and confusion that “Marion Holland” (Marnie’s alias) could have done such a thing to him:

Strutt: I knew she was too good to be true.  Always so eager to work overtime.  Never made a mistake.  Always pulling her skirt down over her knees as though there were a national treasure.  She seemed so nice, so efficient, so . . .

Rutland: Resourceful?

And think of the Grace Kelly character in Rear Window.  She is in love with Jimmy Stewart’s photojournalist character, but he won’t marry her because he can’t imagine her suviving outside the rarified environment of her work in New York’s fashion-magazine scene.  Kelly is so anxious to prove she can fit into Stewart’s peripatetic, world-traveling lifestyle that she packs her entire overnight needs into a purse-sized “suitcase” and does the dangerous legwork necessary to sneak into Raymond Burr’s apartment and get the evidence needed to prove he murdered his wife. 

As the film ends (watch the last two minutes here), we see Jimmy Stewart dozing in his wheelchair with two broken legs.  A seemingly no-longer stylish (and therefore now marriage-eligible) Kelly lounges on a daybed nearby.  Wearing jeans and loafers, she is ostensibly reading an adventure-oriented book titled Beyond the High Himalayas. 

But after a quick glance over at Stewart to make sure he is asleep, Kelly quietly puts down her book and picks up an issue of the high-fashion Bazaar magazine, settling back into the cushions with a small smile to enjoy her indulgence. 

Resourceful?  You bet.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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