Kids Books: Historical Novels

I’ve shared on here that the girls and I have been listening to a lot of audio books. After a few too many turns of Ivy and Bean (nothing against that series, but it gets old after the tenth time), I put my foot down and insisted we try something else. I had never read Little House in the Big Woods so wanted to listen together. There were some groans from some, but the deal was that we’d give it two chapters. Guess what? We’re almost done and plan to listen to Farmer Boy next.

I know what you’re asking – “this is an environmental blog, what does Little House have to do with the theme?” But here’s the thing – it’s a really fun way to hear about “olden times” and how people used to live more in tandem with the Earth’s seasons and their local surroundings. There are lots of places for conversations and learning from each scene. The same happens with the American Girl Doll books, like Kit Kittredge. All of these books are fun to read but come with valuable information as well.

I found these used Kit books at a local consignment shop. My older daughter loved this series so much that she looks through these books on a regular basis

There was no term like “zero-waste” back then. In Kit’s time, due to the Great Depression, the saying went – Use It Up, Wear It Down, Make It Due, or Do Without. They wouldn’t throw things away, but rather “upcycle” or mend them. Every piece of food was used and nothing was wasted. While I obviously don’t wish for another Depression, there are lessons to be learned there. Nowadays, we are so quick to throw away broken items or waste parts of food. (Myself included – I’m not great about using broccoli stalks or the ends of a loaf a bread.) But these habits are wasteful and food waste is a huge climate change contributor. The books also talks about victory gardens and raising chickens for eggs. Old clothes go to the “rag man.” By talking about Kit’s family’s habits, we think about which actions would be useful in today’s world in order to help the environment.

The Ingalls family’s routines offer more great examples. It’s a little gory, but if your kids can stand it, there’s a educational section about raising, butchering and using every single part of a pig. No part of the animal is wasted. The family also lives seasonally and gets excited for sugar syrup, stores veggies and salts meats for the winter and then plants their garden in the spring. They use their water sparingly and don’t turn up the heat when it’s cold – they rather add layers. My older daughter asked if their family ate pasta and sushi. My guess is no but I’m not sure. I’m assuming sushi was out, but anyone know if pasta was common in the 1800s? It’s another opportunity to discuss eating locally, cultural appropriation and food appreciation. (By the way, if your children are too young for the novels, there are preschool-age versions. My younger one loved them and I will likely save them for her.)

A friend gave my younger daughter some of these books as a third birthday gift and we have really enjoyed them

On a side note, the Kit and Molly AG books talk about kids experiencing nationwide collective hardships, such as the Depression and World War II. These stories can help your family discuss the current Covid epidemic and the lessons we can learn from this difficult time. Much like people worked together to help their society during those two periods, many of us are doing the same today. So many lessons from these enjoyable books. Happy reading! – Rachel

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