Hot Best Seller

From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood

Availability: Ready to download

A typical travel book takes readers along on a trip with the author, but a great travel book does much more than that, inviting readers along on a mental and spiritual journey as well. This distinction is what separates Nancy McCabe’s From Little Houses to Little Women from the typical and allows it to take its place not only as a great travel book but also as a memoir A typical travel book takes readers along on a trip with the author, but a great travel book does much more than that, inviting readers along on a mental and spiritual journey as well. This distinction is what separates Nancy McCabe’s From Little Houses to Little Women from the typical and allows it to take its place not only as a great travel book but also as a memoir about the children’s books that have shaped all of our imaginations. McCabe, who grew up in Kansas just a few hours from the Ingalls family’s home in Little House on the Prairie, always felt a deep connection with Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series. McCabe read Little House on the Prairie during her childhood and visited Wilder sites around the Midwest with her aunt when she was thirteen. But then she didn’t read the series again until she decided to revisit in adulthood the books that had so influenced her childhood. It was this decision that ultimately sparked her desire to visit the places that inspired many of her childhood favorites, taking her on a journey that included stops in the Missouri of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Minnesota of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Massachusetts of Louisa May Alcott, and even the Canada of Lucy Maud Montgomery. From Little Houses to Little Women reveals McCabe’s powerful connection to the characters and authors who inspired many generations of readers. Traveling with McCabe as she rediscovers the books that shaped her and ultimately helped her to forge her own path, readers will enjoy revisiting their own childhood favorites as well.


Compare

A typical travel book takes readers along on a trip with the author, but a great travel book does much more than that, inviting readers along on a mental and spiritual journey as well. This distinction is what separates Nancy McCabe’s From Little Houses to Little Women from the typical and allows it to take its place not only as a great travel book but also as a memoir A typical travel book takes readers along on a trip with the author, but a great travel book does much more than that, inviting readers along on a mental and spiritual journey as well. This distinction is what separates Nancy McCabe’s From Little Houses to Little Women from the typical and allows it to take its place not only as a great travel book but also as a memoir about the children’s books that have shaped all of our imaginations. McCabe, who grew up in Kansas just a few hours from the Ingalls family’s home in Little House on the Prairie, always felt a deep connection with Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series. McCabe read Little House on the Prairie during her childhood and visited Wilder sites around the Midwest with her aunt when she was thirteen. But then she didn’t read the series again until she decided to revisit in adulthood the books that had so influenced her childhood. It was this decision that ultimately sparked her desire to visit the places that inspired many of her childhood favorites, taking her on a journey that included stops in the Missouri of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Minnesota of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Massachusetts of Louisa May Alcott, and even the Canada of Lucy Maud Montgomery. From Little Houses to Little Women reveals McCabe’s powerful connection to the characters and authors who inspired many generations of readers. Traveling with McCabe as she rediscovers the books that shaped her and ultimately helped her to forge her own path, readers will enjoy revisiting their own childhood favorites as well.

30 review for From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    I have always since my childhood enjoyed rereading, and I was therefore very much looking forward to Nancy McCabe’s From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood. And since I was also hoping that the author, that Nancy McCabe would be feting and celebrating the act and the art of rereading and to equally have a positive attitude towards her teenaged and her childhood self, I was therefore and indeed more than a bit surprised and perturbed regarding how critical and condesce I have always since my childhood enjoyed rereading, and I was therefore very much looking forward to Nancy McCabe’s From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood. And since I was also hoping that the author, that Nancy McCabe would be feting and celebrating the act and the art of rereading and to equally have a positive attitude towards her teenaged and her childhood self, I was therefore and indeed more than a bit surprised and perturbed regarding how critical and condescending she in fact often tends to be towards both her childhood reading choices and in my humble opinion also towards younger readers in general. For honestly, we do generally tend to read and analyse differently as children and teenagers than we do as adults and as a professor of literature, Linda McCabe really should be well aware of this and not try to paint her childhood reading with her critical adult professor brush (as this sure does feel rather majorly condescending and also much too negative towards child readers, and yes, it equally gives the impression that young readers, that their attitudes towards even literature which is actually supposed to be specifically penned with them in mind, really should not have anything to say and deserve to have their views and attitudes generally be dismissed). So yes, while some of From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood has been sufficiently interesting and even at times engaging (and that I do appreciate the treks Linda McCabe ends up taking to in particular Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie locations, albeit that personally, these types of literary vacations and pilgrimages far too often can be rather disillusioning and disappointing), the condescension and arrogance McCabe often seems to demonstrate towards the target audience of children’s literature, towards younger readers, this has definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth with regard to From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood (and that as an academic myself, Linda McCabe’s intellectual snobbery really does grate on me, and in particular so because there is already enough animosity towards professors etc. and that indeed, I do wish that we academics would become in general a trifle more humble).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    rats, another book I so wanted to like. unfortunately, the author was no 'kindred spirit'; too PC, too repetitive, too critical. the author revisits her favorite youth books, including literally visiting Little House locations, PEI, etc. Good news, she did introduce me to the Betsy-Tacy books, which I had never heard of. Author jumped around from book to book too much, including repeating herself. rats, another book I so wanted to like. unfortunately, the author was no 'kindred spirit'; too PC, too repetitive, too critical. the author revisits her favorite youth books, including literally visiting Little House locations, PEI, etc. Good news, she did introduce me to the Betsy-Tacy books, which I had never heard of. Author jumped around from book to book too much, including repeating herself.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary Hoppe

    I really wanted to like this book, it’s about some of my favorite books and authors, however the order of this book is atrocious! Too much back and forth on subjects! This author is supposedly a professor of writing, but I’m not impressed with how she writes. I also didn’t like the negative tone she often had. And how many times did I read about her failed marriage and the fact that she’s a single parent? I think she would have been better off writing this as a journal for herself and work out h I really wanted to like this book, it’s about some of my favorite books and authors, however the order of this book is atrocious! Too much back and forth on subjects! This author is supposedly a professor of writing, but I’m not impressed with how she writes. I also didn’t like the negative tone she often had. And how many times did I read about her failed marriage and the fact that she’s a single parent? I think she would have been better off writing this as a journal for herself and work out her angst and life problems that way!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Part post modern feminist criticism of many of my childhood favorite books, part uninteresting travel anecdotes. . .I couldn't finish this one. Part post modern feminist criticism of many of my childhood favorite books, part uninteresting travel anecdotes. . .I couldn't finish this one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Beth Bonini

    3.5 stars It’s very unusual for me to take three months to read a book, but I found this one - episodic in nature anyway - very easy to pick up but also to put down. The author Nancy McCabe is a writer and an academic, and she does occasionally venture into that sort of territory (in terms of language or references to academic scholarship) while examining her ‘subject’. However, the larger half of the book would be more accurately described as memoir - and her intersection with her material is pr 3.5 stars It’s very unusual for me to take three months to read a book, but I found this one - episodic in nature anyway - very easy to pick up but also to put down. The author Nancy McCabe is a writer and an academic, and she does occasionally venture into that sort of territory (in terms of language or references to academic scholarship) while examining her ‘subject’. However, the larger half of the book would be more accurately described as memoir - and her intersection with her material is primarily from the vantage point of being a daughter, niece, cousin and mother. The subtitle of this academic study/memoir is ‘Revisiting a Literary Childhood’ and McCabe’s starting point is her family’s devotion to the ‘Little House’ books penned (maybe?) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Like many readers, McCabe, her mother, aunts and female cousin Jody all felt that they had a special kinship with this beloved author and her books. They felt a sense of ‘ownership’ - and this is a key point which McCabe examines from a variety of angles. The books became part of their own lives and their own family mythology - culminating in a trip, undertaken when McCabe was a young teen and her aunt was dying of lupus, to visit some of the houses that the Ingalls and Wilder families had lived in. Much later, McCabe revisits these literary houses with her own daughter Sophie - and this time, she really makes a project of it. The Ingalls Wilder homes are visited, but other literary locations, too: Prince Edward Island (Lucy Maud Montgomery) and Mankato, Minnesota (Maud Hart Lovelace) and Concord, Massachusetts (Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau and Emerson). There were several different strands to this book: first of all, McCabe delves into the roles that books (characters, authors) can play in our lives. Her own reading experiences are her main case study. Secondly, although this is what gives the book its structure, or at least its momentum, McCabe questions why people feel compelled to visit authors’ houses, and she also recounts (in detail) the ways in which those experiences are both reinforcing and disappointing. The book touches on something that is both deeply personal and yet also universal for so many readers (predominately female ones). This is a very girl-centred book. I alternated between feeling fascinated, amused and bored by the level of detail (and judgement) which McCabe chose to share with her own readers. Many readers who accompany McCabe on her ‘journey’ will conclude that they need not take any of these literary pilgrimages themselves - as McCabe has already narrated both the highs and lows, and somehow made all of these places seem so small and prosaic. Overall, though, I felt indulgently fond - or fondly indulgent - of this writer/reader and her quest/project.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    If I had to sum up my feelings about Nancy McCabe's From Little House to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood in one sentence, it would be this: after reading this book, I now want to go back and re-read all my childhood favorite books. Part travel book, part memoir, part literary analysis, McCabe's book examines her love of reading while revisiting specific childhood favorites. Since McCabe herself grew up in Kansas, she feels a close attachment to the Little House on the Prairie series If I had to sum up my feelings about Nancy McCabe's From Little House to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood in one sentence, it would be this: after reading this book, I now want to go back and re-read all my childhood favorite books. Part travel book, part memoir, part literary analysis, McCabe's book examines her love of reading while revisiting specific childhood favorites. Since McCabe herself grew up in Kansas, she feels a close attachment to the Little House on the Prairie series, and much of this book examines this series, while cataloging McCabe's own trip (with her daughter) to various homes/tourist attractions from the Little House books. She intertwines bits and pieces of her own history with reading, including her initial reactions to the Little House characters as well as her disdain to the television show. She also offers analysis of the books including reviewing the argument that it was Laura's daughter, Rose, who actually penned most of the books in the series. The Little House series clearly takes center stage in this book, but McCabe also examines Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. Throughout her book, she also looks at other childhood favorites including two of mine: The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (I loved this book as a child, and sadly many people have never heard of it -- even those who have read White's classic, Charlotte's Web) and Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan (of I Know What You Did Last Summer fame). Her observations of the texts include her initial childhood readings along with more adult observations of the characters, plots, and time periods of publications.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lynda Dickson

    When her adopted daughter Sophie is a toddler, the author tries to recapture some of the magic of her own childhood by rereading some of her favorite childhood books. Unfortunately, she is no longer affected emotionally by them as she was as a child. Nancy recalls when, aged thirteen, she traveled with her aunt and cousin to Minnesota and South Dakota, the places where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote her Little House series. So, Nancy decides to take Sophie (starting when she is nine) on si When her adopted daughter Sophie is a toddler, the author tries to recapture some of the magic of her own childhood by rereading some of her favorite childhood books. Unfortunately, she is no longer affected emotionally by them as she was as a child. Nancy recalls when, aged thirteen, she traveled with her aunt and cousin to Minnesota and South Dakota, the places where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote her Little House series. So, Nancy decides to take Sophie (starting when she is nine) on similar road trips. They travel to Pepin, Wisconsin, the site of Laura’s birth; Independence, Kansas, the site of the original Little House book; Mankato, Minnesota, the setting for Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy books; Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and Burr Oak, Iowa, sites of more of the Ingalls cabins; De Smet, South Dakota, and Mansfield, Missouri, settings for later Little House books; Prince Edward Island, the territory of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables; Concord, Massachusetts, the setting of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women; and Amherst, Massachusetts, the home of Emily Dickinson. Along the way, the author mentions such classic characters as Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy, Eunice Young Smith’s Jennifer books, Lenora Mattingly Weber’s Beany Malone series, Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy books, and authors such as E. B. White and Noel Streatfeild. The book concludes with an extensive list of footnotes, a list of books mentioned, a complete bibliography, and even an index. This is a well-written, engaging, and insightful book, part memoir, part travelogue, part literary criticism. It’s interesting to see how the author’s perceptions of her favorite books change over time, how some of her life choices have been influenced by these books, and how Sophie has difficulty relating to the books but learns to appreciate them by seeing them through her mother’s eyes. After reading this, I don’t think I’ll revisit my favorite children’s books; I’ll just leave my childhood memories intact. I received this book in return for an honest review. Full blog post (6 April): https://booksdirectonline.blogspot.co...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Billie

    The author takes the reader on a journey revisiting the settings and homes of the beloved books that you may have read as a child. This book is for those that may want to analyze some of their favorite childhood literature and take a nostalgic journey. I received a copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Renata Shura

    I can’t believe I read the whole thing. Nancy McCabe deceitfully uses “little houses” in her title to capitalize on the strong base of the loyal Little House on the Prairie fans. But from the get-go it is very apparent that she is not only apathetic about the little house books, but in fact is hostile towards them. As she discusses Pepin and Kansas she regurgitates information that various other scholars have concluded, and does not even have the balls to come to any true conclusion through her I can’t believe I read the whole thing. Nancy McCabe deceitfully uses “little houses” in her title to capitalize on the strong base of the loyal Little House on the Prairie fans. But from the get-go it is very apparent that she is not only apathetic about the little house books, but in fact is hostile towards them. As she discusses Pepin and Kansas she regurgitates information that various other scholars have concluded, and does not even have the balls to come to any true conclusion through her own thought and synthesis. This is neither a scholarly analysis of her childhood favorite books nor a nostalgic reminiscence of said books resulting in some great adult revelation which is what I thought this book was supposed to be. I was looking forward to inspirational descriptive passages of the places visited, a la Anne Shirley who she routinely dismisses as a character enamored with romantic drivel and who eventually deflates into a shell of a downtrodden stereotypical oppressed housewife. If you are a fan of LHOTP or Anne of Green Gables, don’t waste your time with this one. I am thankful that after a year of being listed on eBay some one actually bought this off of me. Nancy McCabe laments that she lacked imagination as a child. That’s about the extent of her insights in this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lillian

    So I have some mixed reviews to make about this book. On the one hand, I love a memoir about books. It really makes me think about why I love to read and that is a really important thing to come back to every now and again. This book also made me think about what kind of books I want to read with my future kids, another fun reflection point. However, there were many things about this book that were very annoying, mostly because of how much she repeated herself. She must have said in every chapte So I have some mixed reviews to make about this book. On the one hand, I love a memoir about books. It really makes me think about why I love to read and that is a really important thing to come back to every now and again. This book also made me think about what kind of books I want to read with my future kids, another fun reflection point. However, there were many things about this book that were very annoying, mostly because of how much she repeated herself. She must have said in every chapter how she married at 20 then divorced two years later. Also a lot of stuff about her daughter was really about her, I feel like at the end of the book that she is either traumatized or very self absorbed, possibly both. But I always admire people who publish and put themselves out there.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    I’m going to consider this read, even though it was a massive skim. I love travel writing and I love books so I thought that this would be a fun blend, especially considering the books she revisits are some of my favorites. It was meh. (Sorry) I couldn’t get into the style. But I’m sure she had excellent points about themes found in these books and how different they are interpreted by a child vs that child grownup.

  12. 4 out of 5

    H

    Not as good as I'd hoped. Not as good as I'd hoped.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chrisanne

    Some good thoughts but too self-pleasing. Not edited as much as it should have been. Overly critical and yet not critical enough. Bitter. Unhappy. Depressing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Beth Rider

    From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood is arguably the most bookish book that has been recently published. Stemming from a childhood spent near the Ingalls’ family home in Kansas and a decision to visit places that inspired books like On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake, author Nancy McCabe presents a memoir reflecting on the impact that classic childhood novels have had on her. Over her years of reading children’s classics, McCabe personalizes From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood is arguably the most bookish book that has been recently published. Stemming from a childhood spent near the Ingalls’ family home in Kansas and a decision to visit places that inspired books like On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake, author Nancy McCabe presents a memoir reflecting on the impact that classic childhood novels have had on her. Over her years of reading children’s classics, McCabe personalizes the actions or habits of the heroines that she reads about. As an adult, McCabe sees the sum total of who she has become, and writes each chapter of From Little Houses with commentary based on a book. As a child, McCabe remembers trying to imagine dialogue between the dandelions and tulips in her back yard, like Anne of Anne of Avonlea imagined dialogue between “the asters and the sweet peas and the wild canaries in the lilac bush and the guardian spirit of the garden.” As a preteen, McCabe wears her hair long because of how the protagonist of Plain Girl embraces her common, plain clothes and looks. These are just a few examples of how deeply literature seeped into McCabe’s character. Truly conversational, From Little Houses is like sitting at a table with an old friend while she recounts her travels. But, not only are travels recollected; McCabe also expands on detail from the classics that she’s read to offer literary criticism and analysis. Though there would be a seeming prerequisite of having read the novels that McCabe discusses, it is not difficult to fully appreciate the strong relationship that McCabe has developed with the stories that she’s read and re-read, either as a child, as an adult, or as a mother to her daughter. Part term paper, part travelogue, From Little Houses to Little Women: revisiting a Literary Childhood is a slice of literary pie with promise to satisfy any true, devoted book worm who is willing to eat with the fork.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Natashalie Lumley

    Have you ever read a book with a premise you really enjoyed, but somehow the execution just doesn't Quuuuite cut it? That's this book. (If youre wondering why I gave it 4 stars it's because you can't do halves and I rounded up in Pathfinder tradition.) Reading the title and the inside flap gave me this rush of second-hand nostalgia, given that I too enjoyed most of the Little House books and what I remembered of Little Women. I thought "YES let's look at the stories that shaped us!" Unfortunately Have you ever read a book with a premise you really enjoyed, but somehow the execution just doesn't Quuuuite cut it? That's this book. (If youre wondering why I gave it 4 stars it's because you can't do halves and I rounded up in Pathfinder tradition.) Reading the title and the inside flap gave me this rush of second-hand nostalgia, given that I too enjoyed most of the Little House books and what I remembered of Little Women. I thought "YES let's look at the stories that shaped us!" Unfortunately I am not blessed with a memory as sharp as Ms McCabe. She writes about remembering a quirk of her childhood and realizing it was from whatever media she was consuming, and while I enjoyed learning about these things I felt a sort of emptiness on my own end. (And yes, this is my failing and hardly affects the rating.) The rest of the book was also difficult for me to get in to. For some reason reading her travels felt like almost as much of a slog as they would've been for her (and was also written in such a way that I have zero desire to visit any of the places mentioned, a far cry from my usual feelings after reading a travel book). And while the history she brings forward about the authors was very interesting and informative, the book seemed unevenly divided and moreso focused on the Ingalls/Wilder family than the other several books she follows. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy parts of it. I've decided to reread the Little House series partially because of this, and I got several other book recs I'm going to track down. It just... wasn't all I'd hoped for. It makes a great recommendation for the person in your life who's curious about the actual history behind the Ingalls/Wilder story though! They'll learn a lot.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kerith

    It's always fun to read other people's thoughts about books that I read to pieces (and still do), while also following them around on trips and tours about those books. Laura Ingalls Wilder, L.M. Montgomery, Maud Hart Lovelace, Louisa May Alcott, plus others I've read and some I've never heard of. We didn't always agree, but that's absolutely fine. I discovered I'd read Ms McCabe before - she is a fellow adoptive mom of a Chinese daughter, and she wrote a book about bringing her Sophie home, that It's always fun to read other people's thoughts about books that I read to pieces (and still do), while also following them around on trips and tours about those books. Laura Ingalls Wilder, L.M. Montgomery, Maud Hart Lovelace, Louisa May Alcott, plus others I've read and some I've never heard of. We didn't always agree, but that's absolutely fine. I discovered I'd read Ms McCabe before - she is a fellow adoptive mom of a Chinese daughter, and she wrote a book about bringing her Sophie home, that I read years ago and had forgotten about. Her daughter even read some of these books with her. Mine started out that way but has diverged, and that's fine too. That's joy of a world where "making many books has no end".

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    This one started very slowly for me. I enjoyed the descriptions of the author's experiences in the various author places, bit was less keen on the chapters about her personal life. I admit, they were necessary for a true view into her experience, but frustrated me as well. While a generation apart, The author and I read and loved some of the same books. As she spends time criticizing those books I love and she once loved, it s a little like seeing your essay crumpled up by a teacher you don't mu This one started very slowly for me. I enjoyed the descriptions of the author's experiences in the various author places, bit was less keen on the chapters about her personal life. I admit, they were necessary for a true view into her experience, but frustrated me as well. While a generation apart, The author and I read and loved some of the same books. As she spends time criticizing those books I love and she once loved, it s a little like seeing your essay crumpled up by a teacher you don't much like. It was a little funny because I read the bulk of the book in Mankato, MN, one of the stops she makes on her literary journey.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Harper

    It pains me to leave bad reviews, but this book was awful. I imagined this would be a nostalgic part-travelogue/memoir/literary criticism, but this managed to be the meanest combination of all of those things. The writer is so thoroughly unlikeable in her attitude and her way of telling stories. She is so stupidly angry and disrespectful. By the time she mentions writing a snarky poem to leave with Altoids on the grave of Emily Dickinson, I wanted to throw the book. It's like reading a book a to It pains me to leave bad reviews, but this book was awful. I imagined this would be a nostalgic part-travelogue/memoir/literary criticism, but this managed to be the meanest combination of all of those things. The writer is so thoroughly unlikeable in her attitude and her way of telling stories. She is so stupidly angry and disrespectful. By the time she mentions writing a snarky poem to leave with Altoids on the grave of Emily Dickinson, I wanted to throw the book. It's like reading a book a too-skool-for-cool 14 year old wrote vs reading a book that someone who loved reading as a child wrote.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I connected to so much of this books. Nancy McCabe could have been talking about my reading childhood, except I never got into Anne of Green Gables. I enjoyed how she was able to interweave her experiences with her travel and with literary criticism. I was on the fence between 3 and 4 stars, but what pushed my decision was the lack of citation in the narrative. I wanted to know who these people were that she cited and why they were voices of authority.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    This book intrigued me because McCabe selected four authors whose novels were meaningful during her childhood, three of whom were important to my childhood. She reread the books with her daughter and then visited the homes of the authors. The author also included critical analysis- she is a professor - which did not interest me as much as the personal aspects of the book. No plans to reread the books as an adult - I prefer to remember the joy they provided me as a young girl.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pastel

    A loving look back on a life and how books played a part in shaping it. The writing is clean and the author paints a clear and interesting portrait of a certain era.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Lynn

    From Little Houses to Little Women is one woman’s attempt to trace the events of her life back to favorite childhood books. McCabe explains in the Prologue that, as happens with so many of us, during her teenage years, she no longer experienced books the same way she had as a child. She lost the magic (my word, not hers) - that feeling of complete immersion and being the heroine, and the impression of possibilities that go along with such heroic identification (i.e., “I can do anything! I can be From Little Houses to Little Women is one woman’s attempt to trace the events of her life back to favorite childhood books. McCabe explains in the Prologue that, as happens with so many of us, during her teenage years, she no longer experienced books the same way she had as a child. She lost the magic (my word, not hers) - that feeling of complete immersion and being the heroine, and the impression of possibilities that go along with such heroic identification (i.e., “I can do anything! I can be anything! I can be strong/smart/pretty like [insert literary character]!). Then one day in adulthood, events conspired to make McCabe realize that her decision to adopt her daughter could be traced back to a book she had read as a girl. Intrigued by this, she wondered how all the books she read back then led her to be the person she is with the life she has now. From Little Houses to Little Women is her account of her journey to find out. Most, if not all, of the books McCabe discusses will be familiar to former child readers (and if you weren’t a reader with favorite books as a child, you probably wouldn’t pick up this book in the first place), but she brings out details we might not recall if we haven’t re-read them as adults ourselves. Don’t expect a joyful romp through the land of used-to-be, however. McCabe’s perspective was colored by the long illness and painful death of a close aunt - an aunt who was influential in her reading and her life - so a cloud of confusion, pain, and sadness hovers over many of her reminisces This makes the book less comforting than one might expect revisiting favorite characters would be, but more interesting with a unique perspective. The journey is external as well as internal: in addition to rereading the books to see what she brought forward with her, McCabe traveled to several of the authors’ homes, seeking to find how their lives informed their work - and ultimately her life. McCabe seems to have been disappointed in many of her home site visits. This is partly due to either the commercialization some sites have embraced in their bid for tourist dollars or the converse problem of not having enough money to keep the site up properly, but more greatly due to the afore-mentioned aunt, who took McCabe on a similar trip shortly before her death. This previous trip’s influence caused McCabe to have an outlook much different than most people do on such expeditions (based on many conversations I’ve had with numerous other literary travelers). If her viewpoint is uncommon, it is all the more compelling. Even though this is a memoir, it does not have an intimate feel. It’s much more analytical - which was the author’s purpose, after all. McCabe lets us figure it out with her along the journey, instead of filling us in after she does so herself, so readers become privy to her thoughts in what seems like real time. In the end, McCabe draws some interesting conclusions regarding how childhood books shape a person’s character - or, at least, how her favorite books as a girl impacted her own choices and values through life. The most interesting part to me was what she thought, as a young reader, the various authors were saying, versus what she now believes they were saying - and, related to that, the nuances she missed completely back then that now stand out. Overall, it’s a thought-provoking book and one I would certainly recommend.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    As children, Nancy McCabe and I had very similar taste in books. We loved all the books by women writers about girls who wanted to be writers. As adults, we also love visiting the homes of our favorite writers. I enjoyed sharing those memories with McCabe. However, as a book in its own right, From Little Houses to Little Women had major structural flaws. Competing genres (memoir? bibliomemoir? travelogue? literary criticism?) fractured the chapters, and I found it hard to follow. The final two ch As children, Nancy McCabe and I had very similar taste in books. We loved all the books by women writers about girls who wanted to be writers. As adults, we also love visiting the homes of our favorite writers. I enjoyed sharing those memories with McCabe. However, as a book in its own right, From Little Houses to Little Women had major structural flaws. Competing genres (memoir? bibliomemoir? travelogue? literary criticism?) fractured the chapters, and I found it hard to follow. The final two chapters and the epilogue (on Anne of Green Gables and Prince Edward Island; Little Women and Concord, Massachusetts; Emily Dickinson and Amherst, Massachusetts) were the strongest, probably because they each focused on one author and her home/the local area. Traveling the path of Laura Ingalls Wilder would have made a great book in its own right (I think there's one or two out there), but memoir/criticism chapters punctured it, and inserted another author/location (Maud Hart Lovelace of Betsy-Tacy fame) into the story. Lovelace is a dear and I want to go to her home now. Overall, I liked each part individually. I appreciated McCabe's engagement with her literary past and present. Her take on Wilder is meaningful in light of criticism (she mentions Louise Erdrich's Birchbark House series as historically accurate alternatives). And, as an enthusiast of female authors and their homes, I enjoyed her takes on the sites, figures, and books. However, Little Houses didn't come together as a whole. Some restructuring would help. It's planted in me the idea of a travelogue/bibliomemoir that marries books and places in a coherent manner, since the one thing better than escaping to another world in a book is being in that world while reading it. As an English major who's now a historian, I found McCabe's take on literary criticism and the endless diagnosing of historical figures with medical and psychological disorders refreshing. Part of her cynicism is certainly the distance she draws between her "fundamentalist" Christian childhood (she never defines exactly what kind of fundamentalism she experienced) and the general Christianity expressed in most of the authors she explores in detail. I always find a thoughtful take on books interesting. Yet, I found her take on Lucy Maud Montgomery and the Anne books to be deeply disappointing. She treats them less charitably than books by Lovelace. The Montgomery chapter also didn't have as much critical/biographical engagement, and the latter Anne books are dismissed because poor Anne has given up her dream of writing to have seven children. Sorry, Anne, fulfilling the dreams of your orphanhood by having a large family isn't good enough for Nancy McCabe--you were supposed to be a writer, don't you know. Most of McCabe's complaints about Anne Shirley Blythe wouldn't apply to the Emily books, but there's nary a mention of Montgomery's most autobiographical heroine, or frankly anything else Montgomery wrote. Montgomery's mental and health struggles would have fit with the rest of McCabe's book, but they're not present in the chapter. Honestly, this just makes me want to check off the rest of the female author's homes on my list and write my own bibliomemoir/travelogue about books, growing up, and how literature taught me the art of womanhood.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Connor

    Read Harder Challenge 3: Read a book about books.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    4.5 stars. The author writes about a topic most of us who were voracious readers as children struggle with: reconciling our unconditional childhood love for these stories with the flaws we see in them as more critical-thinking adults. As part of her research process, the author hit the road to visit the Midwestern sites from the Little House on the Prairie series with her 9-year-old daughter Sophie, who was alternately bored and carsick. This trip also took them to the Betsy-Tacy site in Minnesot 4.5 stars. The author writes about a topic most of us who were voracious readers as children struggle with: reconciling our unconditional childhood love for these stories with the flaws we see in them as more critical-thinking adults. As part of her research process, the author hit the road to visit the Midwestern sites from the Little House on the Prairie series with her 9-year-old daughter Sophie, who was alternately bored and carsick. This trip also took them to the Betsy-Tacy site in Minnesota. In following years they visited Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables), Concord, Massachusetts (Louisa May Alcott’s home), and Amherst, Massachusetts (Emily Dickinson). This book spoke to me because most of the focus was on books I have read over and over, and of course it helped that the issues that troubled the author have troubled me as well – plus more I hadn’t really identified. I appreciated the positive analysis in many cases, particularly the Betsy-Tacy stories – my absolute favorite childhood series. Really thoughtful analysis about portrayals of women and men, a bibliography to die for, and inspiration to visit some of the sites I have not yet been to.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    Now I want to go visit the homes of my favorite authors and book characters! I've been to Mankato (Mecca), and also visited DeSmet. I reread so many childhood favorites every few years that they always feel like old friends, not something I'm rediscovering. It was interesting to read McCabe's reactions to visiting the places, but a downer that so much was disillusioning. I enjoyed how she traced thoughts and decisions in her own life, back to books that made major impressions. I marked the book Now I want to go visit the homes of my favorite authors and book characters! I've been to Mankato (Mecca), and also visited DeSmet. I reread so many childhood favorites every few years that they always feel like old friends, not something I'm rediscovering. It was interesting to read McCabe's reactions to visiting the places, but a downer that so much was disillusioning. I enjoyed how she traced thoughts and decisions in her own life, back to books that made major impressions. I marked the book up with a pencil as I was reading, because her summaries brought back memories of my own connections to the same books. Sometimes I agreed with her conclusions and sometimes I laughed at the widely varying outcomes readers will take from a book. "Wait, you trace back the message from X book to adopting a child? I trace the same message back to choosing to become a lawyer!" Sort of a nature vs. nurture debate. This would have been 5 stars, except the print was SO TINY! Rough reading.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

    This work is part memoir, part literary criticism, and an accounting of tourist sites related to books and authors. I appreciated the changing perspectives McCabe was able to bring to the books, often with wonderful insight about cultural change and the meanings audience attribute to literature. However, the book was also at times repetitive, and I found her increasingly arrogant cynicism grating by the end. At one point, I was appalled by a disrespectful confession that McCabe and her daughter This work is part memoir, part literary criticism, and an accounting of tourist sites related to books and authors. I appreciated the changing perspectives McCabe was able to bring to the books, often with wonderful insight about cultural change and the meanings audience attribute to literature. However, the book was also at times repetitive, and I found her increasingly arrogant cynicism grating by the end. At one point, I was appalled by a disrespectful confession that McCabe and her daughter wanted to knock over an artifact in a museum - wrongly presuming that it was one of the reproductions (it is not) - because they found the story surrounding the object's use trite. The book began promising with open-minded criticism and seemed (in my opinion) to descend into a skepticism that made the observationsm ore obtuse and, unfortunately, less insightful.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    From Little Houses to Little Women, brought back fond remembrances of: the places where I read, the persons I read with, and the ways that reading these early books shaped my life. This book is a perfect balance of memoir and travelogue with just the right amount of literary commentary mixed in. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Nancy’s Mom and aunts had lived just 30 miles down the road from Rocky Ridge, where Laura Ingalls wrote her Little House books, giving the sisters the right to be ap From Little Houses to Little Women, brought back fond remembrances of: the places where I read, the persons I read with, and the ways that reading these early books shaped my life. This book is a perfect balance of memoir and travelogue with just the right amount of literary commentary mixed in. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Nancy’s Mom and aunts had lived just 30 miles down the road from Rocky Ridge, where Laura Ingalls wrote her Little House books, giving the sisters the right to be appalled at the things the TV version of Little House on the Prairie got wrong.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I love books about books and I love Laura Ingalls Wilder so I had very high hopes as I started reading. I enjoyed reading about how differently the author looks on the novels of her childhood when rereading them as an adult. I also enjoyed reading about her adventures with her daughter when visiting the various literary locations. But overall, the book disappointed me in part because the writing was more academic than I had hoped.

  30. 4 out of 5

    April

    This was not the book I expected, and I am glad for it! I expected a cutsie travelogue and got a critique of the literature and tourist sites instead. It made me think about, and appreciate, some of my favorite books I read as children, on a much deeper level.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.