The Little House – Virginia Lee Burton

POINTS: 1 out of 10.

Bechdel:  0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

This is a very strange little book. But before I address that, let’s get the scoring out of the way. The only named character is The Little House herself (portrayed as female), so no Bechdel pass here. There is a human woman (the great grand-daughter of the House’s original family), but she only talks to her husband in the book, and we are never told her name. So I don’t think it passes even the spirit of the thing (given how often picture book characters are unnamed).

The characters are all pretty standard fare – definitely no variation here. The humans in the illustrations are all white and conform nicely to prescribed gender roles, as far as I can tell. Even in the later part of the book, when there are rather large crowds of people, they are all shades of orange and pink. Apparently the city that surrounds the Little House has not a single person of colour in it.

So much for that. Let’s take a look at the ideologies. And this is where it gets complicated for me. There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia in this book for the proverbial ‘simpler time’ when we all lived with apple orchards in our backyards, which of  course had swing-sets and 2.4 children and a puppy in them. And while I appreciate the sentiment, I’m also a bit averse to the notion that just cos something is old and in the past it is automatically better. Which is pretty much the whole point of this book.

In short, the Little House is built in a nice country landscape, but over the years the distant city encroaches. Luckily for her, the great-great granddaughter of the House’s original family randomly happens upon her and recognises her, and then has her picked up in her entirety and moved back to the country where she belongs. And that’s pretty much the plot.

There is a bit of that “careful what you wish for” stuff going on, since the House expresses curiosity about what it would be like to live in the city, but mostly it’s a big exercise in nostalgia. Which I know some people are into, and if you are one of those people, you may like it, but I didn’t very much.

It is a very pretty book, all my complaints aside. The illustrations really are quite charming, and C gave it a thumbs up, so it gets one point for that. But honestly? I think there are way better books out there.

What do you think? Are you a fan of this sort of nostalgia? Have you read this one, and if so what did you think?



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