Now that Finn is reading, our house is littered with chapter books. From what I can tell, the offerings for young male readers fall into one of two camps: 1) mind-numbingly dull or 2) soul-crushingly terrifying.
You might think a lot of things in life are boring. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t know shit about boring until you’ve read 72 volumes of the Magic Tree House series. Those books are so bad that they will make you start hating things you used to think were cool, like time travel, Morgan Le Fay, and trees.
I thought I found a way to get around reading the Magic Tree House books by borrowing them on CD and playing them on long road trips. Bad idea, if a human is doing the driving. You’d be better off trying to drive after eating a whole roasted turkey and chasing it with a bottle of Nyquil.
But I’ll take boring over scary, any day of the week. I want to cry when I think that my boys could turn out like the kids in “Captain Underpants,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and “Stink,” who blow up toilets, rob unsuspecting neighbors, and engage in mail fraud. The boys in these books don’t really talk. Instead, they retort, or quip. It’s really hard to keep your kids from saying “stupid” and “idiot” at home when they’re reading those words in books that you’ve bought for them.
As an aside, the effort to stop my kids from saying the word “stupid” reached a nadir last month when my four-year old Tate began saying the word “doopid” as a workaround.
Me: “Tate, what did you say?? Did you just say ‘stupid’?”
Tate: “No mommy.” (Rolling of eyes). “I said DOOPID.”
Point is, I’m done with those crap books. Instead, I’m eager to introduce Finn to the chapter books I loved as a kid. Like the Ramona books, by Beverly Cleary, or the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques. Later, perhaps some Robinson Crusoe or Alexandre Dumas—Athos was such a badass, and Lady de Winter! The best. Anyway, it was with these classics in mind that I bought a copy of “Little House on the Prairie,” and started reading it with Finn three nights ago.
The good news is that Finn seems to dig the book, in spite of the long paragraphs about the dappled light on the prairie grass, and door carpentry. The bad news is that as a kid, I never realized how old-fashioned the book is in terms of gender dynamics. Ma basically does whatever Pa tells her to do, even though it’s clear from the get-go that Ma is ten times as smart as Pa, and also, not too keen on the idea of a long wagon ride to the middle of nowhere.
Yeah, Ma puts up with a lot. Later in the book they’re building their log house and Pa drops a fucking LOG on Ma’s foot, and Ma has to soak her foot and put on her own bandages while Pa parties with a neighbor and does a bunch of fiddlin’. I mean, if Tom dropped a log on my foot while he was building our log cabin, I…I don’t even know. But know this: I certainly wouldn’t be putting on my own damn bandages. Most likely I’d limp away in anger and then get eaten by a bear. But at least I’d have my self-respect.
Antiquated gender roles aside, Finn’s not the only one who’s digging on this book. The thing about reading Little House on the Prairie as an adult female is that you realize that Pa, being an alpha male, is totally hot. I mean, look at this illustration.
Not sure he’s got a ton of brains, but Pa is a doer, and I like that in a man. I also like that he’s a provider. The older I get, the more I want other people to take care of me, because I’m tired. Let’s not forget that when he dropped that log on Ma, Pa was building a log cabin. BY HIMSELF. And when the family was crossing the river in the wagon and they started sinking, he tossed the reins to Ma and jumped in the water and basically pulled the ponies to safety. Hot. If they made this book into a movie today, I’m pretty sure Chris Hemsworth would make an awesome Pa.
But back to the book. When Pa goes hunting with his gun, he gets it done. He PROVIDES. He brings back a prairie dog and two rabbits and some other vaguely rodent-like animal that I can’t recall. All I remember is that Ma makes gravy out of whatever it was.
No one can make cornmeal cakes with prairie dog gravy sound as delicious as Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can hardly wait for the later books when they make baked beans with salt pork. I don’t even know what salt pork IS, and my mouth is watering onto my keyboard right now. Anyway, what was I saying. Right. Pa gets it done for his family. And as an adult female, I really dig that about Chris Hemsworth. I mean Pa.
I’m really excited for the later books. I don’t remember them clearly but I DO remember the TV show, and so I know there’s lots of Mary being blind and Carrie being a rascal and a love interest named…Alfonzo? No. ALMONZO. That’s not a name. That’s a candy bar. But anyway, I’m excited. For Finn.