Tired of the Long Winter? Let Laura Ingalls Wilder Put Things in Perspective for You

Filed under: Books for Kids

The Long Winter picture

Is it spring yet? Credit: Amazon

When even kids start complaining about the snow, you know we've had a tough winter. But it could be much, much worse. And if you need to remind your children of that fact, read them "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The sixth –- and, in my opinion, best -– of the Little House books, chronicles the excruciating, blizzard-filled season of 1880 in the Dakota Territory. Don't let the illustration of sledding, snowball-making kids on the cover fool you -– this book is terrifying. After making it through a full reading, you and your kids might all be looking at this year's snowfalls in a different light.

It's not just that the actual weather detailed in the book is awful (and it is, believe me), it's the language Ms. Wilder uses to talk about it that makes "The Long Winter" so harrowing. She writes some of the best, most visceral descriptions of cold ever seen in literature. And when she applies her way with words to the suspenseful plot about her stranded town's dwindling supplies and increasingly harsh conditions, you get a thriller with Mother Nature as the villain.


When your kids gripe about the difficulties this current long winter poses, treat them to some of the following scenes from Wilder's story.

1. If your kids complains about having to walk to school on a snowy day: Remind them that, in order to make sure they didn't lose any students, Laura and her classmates had to walk hand-in-hand, making a human chain as they trudged through a blinding whiteout.

2. If your kids complain about how cold it is: Remind them that Laura was thankful for temperatures of 20 below zero, because they're so much more comfortable than the 40-below temperatures experienced days earlier. We're talking temperatures so frigid that grazing cows got their heads frozen to the ground!

3. If your kids complain about having to adhere to their bedtimes, even on a snow day: Remind them that Laura's entire family had to go to bed the moment the sun went down, because it was pitch black and they didn't have a drop of kerosene left to even light a lamp.

4. If you kids complain that you won't crank the thermostat up to 75: Remind them that Laura's family of six had to huddle around their stove –- the only source of heat in the house -– as blizzard-force winds rattled windows, whistled through gaps in the walls, and blew a carpet of snow in under the front door.

5. If your kids complain that spring hasn't arrived yet: Remind them that the Ingalls family didn't get to celebrate Christmas until the weather finally cleared up -- in May.

On second thought, maybe this isn't the best idea. My fingers are numbing up as I type this. Reading is all about escapism, right? Maybe we should all read something a bit warmer. Did Wilder ever write "Little House on Waikiki?"

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.