Little House in the Big Woods

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Little House in the Big Woods
Front dust jacket with Sewell's illustration
AuthorLaura Ingalls Wilder
IllustratorHelen Sewell[1]
Garth Williams (1953)[2]
CountryUnited States
SeriesLittle House
GenreChildren's literature
Family saga
Set inPepin County, Wisconsin, 1871–72
PublisherHarper & Brothers
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages176;[1] 237 pp.[2]
LC ClassPZ7.W6461 Li[1]
Followed byLittle House on the Prairie 
TextLittle House in the Big Woods online

Little House in the Big Woods is an autobiographical children's novel written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published by Harper in 1932 (reviewed in June).[3] It was Wilder's first book published and it inaugurated her Little House series. It is based on memories of her early childhood in the Big Woods near Pepin, Wisconsin, in the early 1870s.

Plot summary[edit]

Original front cover (see dust jacket above)
Little House in the Big Woods is located in Wisconsin
Little House in the Big Woods
Location of the "Little House in the Big Woods" in Wisconsin

The novel describes the homesteading skills Laura observed and began to practice during her fifth year. It does not contain the more mature (yet real) themes addressed in later books of the series (conflicts with Native Americans, serious illness, death, drought, and crop destruction). Hard work is the rule, though fun is often made in the midst of it. Laura gathers wood chips, and helps Ma and Pa when they butcher animals and preserve the meat. This is all in preparation for the upcoming winter. Fall is a very busy time, because the harvest from the garden and fields must be brought in as well.

The cousins come for Christmas that year, and Laura receives a rag doll, which she names Charlotte. Later that winter, the Ingallses go to Grandma Ingalls’s house and have a “sugaring off,” when they harvest sap and make maple syrup. They return home with buckets of syrup, enough to last the year. Laura remembered that sugaring off, and the dance that followed, for the rest of her life.

Each season has its work, which Laura makes attractive by the good things that result. In the spring, the cow has a calf, so there is milk, butter and cheese. Everyday housework is also described in detail.

That summer and fall, the Ingallses again plant a garden and fields, and store food for the winter. Pa trades labor with other farmers so that his own crops will be harvested faster when it is time. Not all work was farming. Hunting and gathering were important parts of providing for the Ingalls family as well. When Pa went into the woods to hunt, he usually came home with a deer and then smoked the meat for the coming winter. One day he noticed a bee tree and returned early to get the wash tub and milk pail to collect the honey. When he returned in winter evenings, Laura and Mary always begged him to play his fiddle; he was too tired from farm work to play during summer.[4] In the winter, they enjoyed the comforts of their home and danced to Pa’s fiddle playing.


The novel (price two dollars) was reviewed at length for the New York Herald Tribune in its June 12 issue. Jessie Hirsohl advised, "It should be read by all Middle Border children—and by many others to whom its experiences will not be even an echo of word-of-mouth inheritance. Too few, nowadays, can tell as real and treasurable a story... Moreover, this story is delightfully told." In conclusion, "The book's make-up is entirely in character—a homespun-color linen jacket, and inner boards calicoed with tiny strawberry leaves and blossoms. The illustrations are by Helen Sewell, and are pleasantly reminiscent of woodcuts and daguerreotypes."[3]

Based on a 2007 online poll, the U.S. National Education Association listed the novel as one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children".[5] In 2012, it was ranked number 19 on a list of the top 100 children's novels published by School Library Journal, the first of three Little House books in the Top 100.[6]

Related books[edit]

In addition to the Little House series, four series of books expand them to include five generations of Wilder's family. The success of the Little House series has produced many related books including two series ("Little House Chapter Books" and "My First Little House Books") that present the original stories in condensed and simplified form for younger readers. There are also Little House themed craft, music, and cookbooks.


  1. ^ a b c "Little house in the big woods" (first edition). Library of Congress Online Catalog ( Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Little house in the big woods"; Newly illustrated, uniform ed. LC Online Catalog. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Children's Books: Recapturing Rapture". Review of Little House in the Big Woods. Jessie Hirsohl. New York Herald Tribune. June 12, 1932. Page H5.
  4. ^ Each book contains lyrics to folk or patriotic songs. See The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook reference below for full lyrics and music.
  5. ^ "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". National Education Association ( 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  6. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal ( Archived from the original on July 13, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012.


  • Anderson, William. Laura’s Album: a remembrance scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1998. ISBN 0-06-027842-0.
  • Anderson, William. Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Iowa Story. Burr Oak, Iowa. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum. 2001. ISBN 0-9610088-9-X
  • Anderson, William. Prairie Girl: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2004. ISBN 0-06-028974-0
  • Anderson, William. The Little House Guidebook. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1996. ISBN 0-06-446177-7
  • Garson, Eugenia and Haufrecht, Herbert. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook: Favorite Songs from the Little House Books. New York: HarperCollins Children's Books. 1996. ISBN 0-06-027036-5
  • Gormley, Beatrice. Laura Ingalls Wilder: Young Pioneer. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks. 2001. ISBN 0-689-83924-3
  • Ward,S. Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder. New York: Rosen Publishing Group. 2001. ISBN 0-8239-5712-8
  • Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Dear Laura: Letters From Children To Laura Ingalls Wilder. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1996. ISBN 0-06-026274-5
  • Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House in the Big Woods. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1953. ISBN 0-06-026430-6
  • Wilder, Laura Ingalls. A Little House Traveler: Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Journey Across America. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2006. ISBN 0-06-072491-9

External links[edit]