Friday, May 18, 2012

Memorable Middle Grade Books: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Lately I’ve been thinking about stories I read as a child that influenced my writing and my life. The “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were definitely among my childhood favourites.

I think I was first introduced to them by my mom, who read aloud The Little House in the Big Woods. After that, I raced through the rest of them and read them over and over. I was fascinated by the details of life in a different time. I cheered along with Laura as she got even with the bully Nellie Oleson in On the Banks of Plum Creek and I loved the simple romance of These Happy Golden Years.

It’s funny how you notice different things when you read as an adult. As I child, I used to be bored by the whole story of The Long Winter, where Laura’s family was trapped in their house by blizzards, grinding grain in a coffee mill, but I now am fascinated by how they survived their hardship. As an adult, I’m a little disturbed by some of the racial attitudes in the early books, even though I can appreciate that they are consistent with the time period and need to be considered in context (for more see Little House on the Prairie: Racist or Not? ).

What influenced me most as a writer was not the content or the history in these books but the way they were written. I still admire Wilder’s writing style. It’s straightforward and simple, but it contains lovely imagery that helps me picture the scenes in my mind. The style changes a bit through the series, as the main character Laura’s age does – the earlier books have shorter sentences, whereas the older ones seem more fluid to me. To me, this not only shows her awareness of the age of the audience, but also her increasing skill as a writer. Something I strive for in my own writing is that combination of straightforwardness and vivid imagery.

What author’s writing style do you admire? Are there any books from your childhood that stand out in your mind because of the writing style?

3 comments:

  1. I've never read the books. I've only seen the tv shows.

    There are a lot of authors whose writing I admire. It's impossible to list them all. As for ones that stick out from when I was a kid, I'd say Edith Blyton and Judy Blume. :D

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  2. I love the Little House books. I, too, write middle grade and also picture books. It's funny, but I don't remember reading much as a child or being read to by my mother. But what I missed out on in my childhood, I am making up for now :o)

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  3. I loved the Little House books, too, and read the many times. I never really thought about it, but you're right, the writing was simple, yet still full of detail. I think those types of books are best for middle grade readers; they can be kept engaged without feeling that the books are too hard to understand.

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