Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Little Britches

Every boy between the ages of 8 and 12 needs to read Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers. In my humble opinion, of course. (Grin.) It exceeds Little House on the Prairie by miles and is able to connect with adventurous young boys in ways that a girl protagonist might not.

The author, Ralph Moody, writes about his childhood beginning with his family's move to a Colorado ranch in 1906, when he was eight years old. I read a review on the back cover which summed it up for me:

"This is a gallant book--from the first sentence until the last. It is a true story, written in the first person, written without sentimentality but with extraordinary drama." ~Christian Science Monitor

When I first read the above quote I wondered what 'without sentimentality' meant, but I understood by the second or third chapter. Moody writes so matter-of-factly without much emotion. It exudes a young boy's point of view. The author must have had a vivid memory to be able to channel his boyhood in that way.

Ralph Moody, or Little Britches, is an extraordinary boy. Full of spirit, adventure, and curiosity, he gets into more dangerous scrapes than a lion tamer. Brought up with a tremendous work ethic, he contributes to his family's livelihood with hours and hours of hard work.

I loved that his mother had books and poetry and Shakespeare memorized that she would recite to the children during their Sunday picnics. I loved the freedom and responsibility that Little Britches was given by his parents. I loved the relationship between his mother and father. I loved.... well, everything.

His relationship with his father is extraordinarily beautiful. The mutual respect, intelligence, honesty, and character speak loud and strong. His father is quiet and unassuming, but when he talks, Little Britches listens. Somehow, the author brought the messages of his father to life without coming across as preachy, and the book has a strong moral foundation without a religious theme.

I've added the second book in the series, Man of the Family, to our reading list for this next year. I can't wait to begin!

Although the adventures and misadventures make up most of the book, I'll leave you with a few of the lessons Little Britches learned from his father:

pg 177

"There are only two kinds of men in this world: Honest men and dishonest men. There are black men and white men and yellow men and red men, but nothing counts except whether they're honest men or dishonest men.

"Some men work almost entirely with their brains; some almost entirely with their hands; though most of us have to use both. But we all fall into one of the two classes--honest and dishonest.

"Any man who says the world owes him a living is dishonest. The same God that made you and me made this earth. And He planned it so that it would yield every single thing that the people on it need. But He was careful to plan it so that it would only yield up its wealth for the labor of man. Any man who tries to share in that wealth without contributing the work of his brain or his hands is dishonest."

...I wish I knew how Father was able to say things so as to make you remember every word of it. If I could remember everything the way I remember the things Father told me, maybe I could be as smart a man as he was.

pg 210

"You know, a man's life is a lot like a boat. If he keeps his sail set right it doesn't make too much difference which way the wind blows or which way the current flows. If he knows where he wants to go and keeps his sail trimmed carefully he'll come into the right port. But if he forgets to watch his sail till the current catches him broadside he's pretty apt to smash up on the rocks. " After a little while he said, "I have an idea you'll find that the current's a bit strong up at the mountain ranch."

pg 251

"You know, Son, sometimes a fellow has to take a licking for doing the right thing. A licking only lasts a short while, even if it's a hard one, but failing to do the right thing will often make a mark on a man that will last forever."


Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

These books have been in my "want to buy" list for the last two conferences. I will definitely get them this year. Thanks for reminding me. :)

Sarah at SmallWorld said...

We loved this book SO much in our family! It's been a few years, but it's on our list of re-reads for this year!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recommendation! I think my little boy surrounded by princesses and tutus would love it!

Anonymous said...

do you really get up at 5am to post? what kind of schedule do you keep? ha. i think i'd have to go to bed at 8pm to get up that early. and even then, i probably couldn't be that coherent to write a post.

have a great rest of the week, heidi!

Skeller said...

Totally adding this (and The Mysterious Benedict Society) to my library list. Y'know Heidi, I think all my favorite reads this year have been from your recommendations. THANK YOU!!!!

Beth@Pages of Our Life said...

We are reading this one right now! It is awesome. It is opening up the "culture of the west" for us.


Always love your posts!

PS Congrats on your nomination at the HS blog awards!

Heidi said...

Jodi~ Bwa-ha-ha! No, I don't get up at 5 am. I schedule the posts to automatically publish at that time. :) Makes me look effecient, doesn't it, LOL. I won't tell you what time I really get up.

skeller~ I thought of you after reading The Mysterious Benedict Society. I think you would love it. Let me know!

Thanks for chiming in, ladies! I love sharing book talk!

(Thanks, Beth, and congratulations to you, too!!)

Sleep-Deprived said...

Thank you SO MUCH for posting the quotes from the book. I appreciate when people tell why they like certain books so well, and those quotes just put it over the top. Helpful, helpful, helpful :)

Thanks again

Aja Jenise said...

Okay now I have my two girls (7, 4) and then Mark who is 5 months old. Me and the girls started last year with Little House in the Big Woods and it was a riot, too much fun to say. This year we are halfway through Little House on the Prairie and it is quite enjoyable PERIOD. i passed up Little Britches inthe past because I wanted to encourage her lady-like and give her a perspective of family. But I wonder if you think Litle Britches might entertain her? She enjoys playing with boys much more than girls... if that helps your understanding. I am hoping our next book in the Little House series is a little more entertaining for her.
Thank you for the quotes... it reminds me of Little Woman... it was full of bits of wisdom.

Heather said...

I'm adding this one to our read-aloud list right now... thanks so much, Heidi!

Oh, and by the way, may I ask... how in the world does one "schedule" posts? I'd love to use that feature!

Thanks, and happy Wednesday!

Heidi said...

Aja~ I agree that the Little House on the Prairie books are great (we enjoyed the first one last year), I just liked Little Britches better. :) Your daughter would probably enjoy it also, but if you are working on the Little House series I would keep going with them. Your daughter might like Little Britches even more if she waits a year or two. I'm going to have Levi re-read them when he is a little bit older so he can get more out of them.

Heather~ Click on 'post options' at the bottom of the draft you are composing (next to where you add labels). Then type in the date and time you want the post to publish. It will automatically go up at that time. Or it should, anyway. :)

Heather said...

And to think it's that easy :o) Thanks a bunch, Heidi!

Oh, and by the way, I just wanted to let you know that your post yesterday inspired me. After reading it, I cleared off my very neglected mantel and redecorated w/ a few fresh ideas... thank so much for a nudge in the right direction!

Shell in your Pocket said...

I have never heard of these books!
-sandy toes

Anonymous said...

Heidi- I plan to add that book to our reading list. Do you know if I could find it at the library? How many pages is it? Sounds great. Thanks for all the detail! ~Tera

Heidi said...

Tera~ I think you would really enjoy it with your boys! They have a copy at the Albany Library. My copy is 260 pgs.

Also, I didn't mention that the ending is sad if that makes a difference for anyone. It leads straight into the second book, so you might want to have that on hand if you don't want to leave it at the sad part....

Unknown said...

love love love these books (we have almost identical libraries!)

even though you are "untouchable" in my mind's eye (or because you are)...

come on over and pick up your award dear Kreativ Blogger

(no strings attached, take it, leave it, spit n' shine it or pass it on... whatever turns your crank)

Anonymous said...

I love this book! Actually...the whole series, although I haven't quite finished it yet.

Sarah M. said...

My book club read this years ago before I was a member. I've always been curious about this book. Thanks for the review.