This summer, I will read to you from a book called The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Each chapter in this book stands on its own. It is about a little girl who grows up in the American wilderness about a hundred and fifty years ago. (A wilderness is a wild place without buildings, cities or streets.) At the time America was an undeveloped (poor and without modern industry) country without modern factories, electricity, roads or cars.
To make reading easier I will add definitions or notes in brackets after the first time less common words are used. So there will be many bracketed notes at the beginning and few at the end. I will only make minor changes to the original text to use UK spelling or to simplify meanings. If you like the book, I will tell you where to get a copy at the end of the summer.
Chapter 1 Part 1
Once upon a time, long ago in America, a little girl lived in the Big Woods1 of Wisconsin (a place in America), in a little grey house made of logs (whole tree trunks).
The great, dark trees of the Big Woods stood all around the house, and beyond them were other trees and beyond them were more trees. As far as a man could go to the north in a day, or a week, or a whole month, there was nothing but woods. There were no houses. There were no roads. There were no people. There were only trees and the wild animals who had their homes among them.
Wolves lived in the Big Woods, and bears, and huge wild cats. Muskrats (small hairy animals that live in rivers) and mink (a small hairy animal whose fur is used for coats) and otter (thin small hairy animals that live in rivers) lived by the streams (small rivers). Foxes had dens (animal homes) in the hills and deer roamed (walked) everywhere.
To the east of the little log house, and to the west, there were miles upon miles of trees, and only a few little log houses scattered (spread at random) far apart in the edge of the Big Woods.
So far as the little girl could see, there was only the one little house where she lived with her Father and Mother, her sister Mary and baby sister Carrie. A wagon track (dirt road) ran before the house, turning and twisting (not straight) out of sight in the woods where the wild animals lived, but the little girl did not know where it went, nor what might be at the end of it.
The little girl was named Laura and she called her father, Pa, and her mother, Ma.2 In those days and in that place, children did not say Father and Mother, nor Mamma and Papa (Mummy and daddy or mum and dad are more common in Hong Kong), as they do now.
1. The name "Big Woods" would not normally be capitalised, however the author treats a few common nouns, such as "Butchering Time", as if they were proper nouns because the story is told from a child's perspective.
2. After the first chapter, I will revert to using mother and father so as not to confuse the readers who start with one of the other stand-alone chapters. At first we were only going to present the first chapter as an introduction to the book. However it was popular enough that publishing chapter two the next summer became necessary. It continued to be very popular and each summer another chapter was published. Over a decade later we are finishing the book.
The Little House in the Big Woods
Chapter 1 - Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1 - Part 2: Wolves in the Night
Chapter 1 - Part 4: Smoked Meat
Chapter 1 - Part 5: Food for Winter
Chapter 1 - Part 6: Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 7: After Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 9: Winter Night
Chapter 1 - Part 10: About the Author & Where to Find the Book
Chapter 2 - Part 1: Winter Days and Winter Nights
Chapter 2 - Part 2: Jack Frost
Chapter 2 - Part 3: Laura and Mary Helped Mother with the Housework
Chapter 2 - Part 4: Churn on Thursday
Chapter 2 - Part 5: The Best Time of All
Chapter 2 - Part 6: Her Father Began to Play his Fiddle and Sing
Chapter 2 - Part 7: Father Told Stories
Chapter 2 - Part 8 - The Story of Grandfather and the Panther
Chapter 3 - Part 1: Introduction (The Long Rifle)
Chapter 3 - Part 2: Making Bullets
Chapter 3 - Part 3: Cleaning the Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 4: Loading the Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 5: Where and Why to Keep a Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 6: The Story of her Father and the Voice in the Forest Part 1
Chapter 3 - Part 7: The Story of her Father and the Voice in the Forest Part 2
Chapter 4 - Part 1: Christmas in the Forest
Chapter 4 - Part 2: Making a Gift for his Wife
Chapter 4 - Part 3: Christmas is Coming
Chapter 4 - Part 4: Children Make Pictures in the Snow
Chapter 4 - Part 5: Prince & the Blue Dress (part 1 of 3)
Chapter 4 - Part 6: Prince & the Blue Dress (part 2 of 3)
Chapter 4 - Part 7: Prince & the Blue Dress (part 3 of 3)
Chapter 4 - Part 8: Christmas Morning
Chapter 4 - Part 9: Santa Claus Only Gives Presents to Children
Chapter 5 - Part 2: The Weekly Bath
Chapter 5 - Part 3: Being Quiet
Chapter 5 - Part 4: The Story of Grandfather's Sledge and the Pig (part 1 of 4)
Chapter 5 - Part 5: The Story of Grandfather's Sledge and the Pig (part 2 of 4)
Chapter 5 - Part 6: The Story of Grandfather's Sledge and the Pig (part 3 of 4)
Chapter 5 - Part 7: The Story of Grandfather's Sledge and the Pig (part 4 of 4)
Chapter 5 - Part 8: Sunday Music
Chapter 5 - Part 9: Birthday Spanking
Chapter 6 - Part 1 - Introduction (Two Big Bears)
Chapter 6 - Part 2 - Getting Ready to Go
Chapter 6 - Part 3 - Milking Sukey the Cow (1 of 2)
Chapter 6 - Part 4a - Milking Sukey the Cow (2 of 2)
Chapter 6 - Part 4b - Review Questions: Milking Sukey
Chapter 6 - Part 4c - Answers for Review Questions
Chapter 6 - Part 5 - Her Father Has Not Come Home
Chapter 6 - Part 6 - The Story Of Her Father And The Bear In The Way (1 of 2)
Chapter 6 Part 7a - The Story of Her Father and the Bear in the Way (2 of 2)
Chapter 6 Part 7b - Review Questions: The Bear in the Way
Chapter 6 Part 7c - Answers for Review Questions
Chapter 6 Part 8 - Evening with Father
Chapter 6 Part 9 - When idiots see a bear: Hey let's feed the real live teddy bear!
Chapter 7 Part 1 Introduction - Maple Syrup
Chapter 7 Part 2 - The snow is melting
Chapter 7 Part 4 - Grandfather prepares to make maple syrup
Chapter 7 Part 5 - Grandfather harvests maple syrup
Chapter 7 Part 6 - Why is it called a sugar snow?
Chapter 7 Part 7 - Delaine Dress
Chapter 8 Part 1 - Going to Grandmother and Grandfather's House
Chapter 8 Part 2 - Grandmother and Grandfather's House
Chapter 8 Part 3 - The Wildman
Chapter 8 Part 4a: Made themselves pretty – Hair
Chapter 8 Part 4b: Made themselves pretty - Corsets
Chapter 8 Part 5: Made themselves pretty – Dresses
Chapter 8 Part 6: Competition - The Babies on the Bed
Chapter 8 Part 8: Grandmother is the Best Dancer
Chapter 8 Part 9: The Syrup is Ready
Chapter 8 Part 10: Maple Sugar
Chapter 9 Part 1: Spring Has Come
Chapter 9 Part 2: Baby Animals
Chapter 9 Part 3: How to Curl Your Hair and Get Ready to Go to Town
Chapter 9 Part 4: Riding to Town
Chapter 9 Part 5 - What a Town Looks Like
Chapter 9 Part 8 - Lunch Beside the Lake
Chapter 10 Part 2 SUMMERTIME VISITORS
Chapter 10 Part 3 Curls and Aunt Lotty
Chapter 10 Part 4 You Must Never Hit Your Sister
Chapter 10 Part 6 Making Cheese
Chapter 10 Part 7 Green Cheese
Chapter 10 Part 10 How Her Father Got The Honey Away From The Bear
Chapter 11 Part 2 Work in the Farm Fields
Chapter 11 Part 3 Why Does Charley Scream?
Chapter 11 Part 4 What Happened to Charlie?
Chapter 11 Part 5 "It served the little liar right."
Chapter 12 Part 2 Sewing the Hats
Chapter 12 Part 3 Gathering Nuts
Chapter 12 Part 4 Pumpkin Pies
Chapter 12 Part 5 The Threshers Have Come
Chapter 12 Part 6 The Wonderful Threshing Machine
Chapter 12 Part 7 Working the Wonderful Machine
Chapter 12 Part 8 Dinner with the Threshers
Chapter 12 Part 9 Finished Threshing
by John Larrysson
A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.
John Larrysson's Column: link.mingpao.com/75231.htm