I have now read aloud, or listened-to (as an audiobook superbly performed by Cherry Jones) all of the eight lifetime-published "Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder - except Farmer Boy (which is about Almanzo Wilder, the future husband of Laura - the protagonist; and not about the Ingalls family. Perhaps later.)
It has taken me decades to get around to these books; because all that I 'knew' about them was that there was a schmalzy TV children's series of the same name - and this was not the kind of thing I appreciate.
But having read a few other classics of US children's literature recently, and been hugely impressed by the quality, my wife and I decided to to give it a try - by jumping straight in at the 'On the Prairie' volume - when the series really got going (later back-tracking to the Big Woods, which is more of a 'memoir').
I would now place these books in the very first rank of children's literature - up with works like The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, Narnia and The Hobbit.
They are simply superb; and full of the kind of incidents and scenes that I instantly recognize will be remembered forever (and which, I presume, all American kids of a certain age will have lodged in their minds): the circle of wolves, the Indians, the prairie fire, the grasshoppers, the buggy and sled rides...
Everything about these books is excellent - even their values and morality; and especially good (as literary fictions) are those five volumes over which (apparently) Laura Ingall's Wilder's daughter Rose had the greatest editorial influence (i.e. House on the Prairie, Plum Creek, Long Winter, Town on the Prairie, and Happy Golden years).
Like all true classics; these books are not 'like' any other books - what they do its unique. They have the clear ring of truth, and are also beautifully crafted fiction. In a child's and teenager's way: 'all human life is here' - adventure, endurance, happiness, tragedy, humour, embarrassment, hard work, joyous leisure, fights, romance; and all kinds and flavours of vivid characters... The Little House books are a complete world unto themselves.