Book Review: Little House in the Big Woods

Just yes. Yes, yes yes. I love this book. It is a simple story, but oh so addicting. The whole time I was reading, I was just baffled by how they got so much done in one day.

My biggest question throughout the whole book…

How did Ma do it all??? “Excuse me while I milk the cows and churn butter and tend to the garden and mend all the clothes and make cheese and sew a quilt and grind wheat into flour and bake bread and make some straw hats and wash clothes by hand and iron them and clean the house and cook three meals, ALL WHILE I KEEP 3 CHILDREN ALIVE.”


I can barely make myself a peanut butter sandwich with how busy I feel and here Ma Ingalls is, just running the world.

I was so inspired after reading Little House in the Big Woods that I started researching beginning homesteading. Now, I don’t plan on even attempting to get the DIY level of the early settlers, but I think there is something to be said for growing and making things with your hands. These people had a real connection to the food they were eating. They also had a true appreciation for each and every possession they owned, because much of what they did own, they made themselves.

Pioneer life was definitely romanticized in this text.

It had to be an incredibly hard life; not only the work but also the anxiety that came with knowing that if something went wrong, your family may not have anything to eat come autumn.

All of the lovely parts of early-settler life were covered – the trips to town, the evenings by the fire, the Christmases with family, the delectable maple sugar candies. The more difficult aspects of life were described, but not with any hint of hardship or challenge.

Normally this would come off to me as inauthentic, but I think why I’m not bothered by the more-surface level nature of the story is because it is supposed to be written from the perspective of a four-year-old little girl to whom this has just been everyday life for as long as she can remember.

Many adult readers complain about the lack of plot in this book, but I would argue that the book’s short vignettes provide more insight into what everyday life was like for the pioneers than would a novel with a solid plot line. This is a children’s book and it serves well in teaching kids (and adults) what life was like in the late 19th-century. Some of it was charming, quaint, and simple, and some of it was a constant struggle.

If you’re interested in learning about some modern-day homesteaders and how they do life in the 21st-century, check out these blogs:

The Elliot Homestead is a beautiful site with lots of great info about cooking, gardening, farming, family life, and essential oils. Blog creator Shaye Elliot has also written cookbooks and a great book on homesteading – you can check them out here.

Life at Cobble Hill Farm is all about SIMPLIFYING – simplifying finances, meal planning, cooking, and the products we use on our homes and bodies. Blog author Staci is passionate about the lifestyle and business she and her family have begun and it definitely shows.

The Easy Homestead follows the adventurous, humorous, and sometimes sarcastic Jen and her family on their coming-to-be farm in Virginia. Jen posts about raising farm animals, gardening, DIY, natural home/health/body, raising kids, cooking food from scratch, and tips for the home.

The first post I saw on City Girl Farming was “How to Make Dandelion Lip Balm” – I was instantly intrigued. The “city girl” and creator of the blog is Kerrie, who is passionate about intentional and sustainable living. Kerrie writes about gardening, raising chickens, canning, essential oils and other self-sufficiency topics.

Lee of Lady Lee’s Home grew up in a small agricultural community in Israel, where everything was grown, made, and shared. Her roots have stuck with her and she now blogs about farming, growing your own food, essential oils, cooking, and beekeeping. Read Lee’s story on the blog’s “About” page – it’s pretty incredible!

P.S. If you enjoyed Little House in the Big Woods, you might enjoy the Canadian documentary television series Pioneer Quest: A Year in the Real West. I discovered this show soon after finishing Little House in the Big Woods and was instantly addicted. The docu-series follows two couples as they attempt to assume the lives of early settlers to the West. They use only the tools, resources, and materials of era to build their homes, raise livestock, and produce crops to live on. The show is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.


Little House in the Big Woods

Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

Published: Reprint edition May 11, 2004 by HarperCollins (originally published 1932)

Genre: Children’s Books, Historical Fiction

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