Today’s reading almost needs no introduction. For St. Nicholas’ Day, I wanted a Santa Claus story, and one of our favorites has always been Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus, the Christmas chapter from Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Here’s a picture of the cover of the first edition, before the Garth Williams illustrations. I don’t have this, but I do have a battered copy of The Long Winter with the original pictures by Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle.
Some people, confused by the television show, think that the Little House on the Prairie was, like the Little Town on the Prairie, in South Dakota. Not so but far otherwise! It was in southeastern Kansas, near Independence. Winter there can often bring rain, sleet and ice storms more than snow, hence the problems Santa encountered in reaching the Ingalls girls, causing him to enlist Mr. Edwards’ help.
In some ways, Little House on the Prairie is the most problematic of the books, because of Ma’s distaste for Indians and the fact that their part of Kansas, near Oklahoma, was the place where the family had the most contact with them. For this reason, I think it’s important for parents to read the book aloud with their children so that they can discuss the reasons for Ma’s feelings and why our ideas today are different. (Of course, Onkel Hankie Pants has always felt that Laura’s relationship with her mother was quite conflicted and that this shows through in her description of many of Ma’s attitudes.) In the Christmas chapter, there are other springboards for discussion – I wouldn’t be too heavy-handed about it, I suspect most kids will catch on pretty fast to the difference between Laura and Mary’s joy at their few meager gifts, and their own feelings about all the plastic and electronic wishes we foster in our children today. Not to mention how appreciative Pa and Ma are of the sweet potatoes Mr. Edwards brings – we can get them for 99 cents a pound this week in the supermarket.
Surely you have a copy of Little House on the Prairie (and all the other books in the series) at home; but if you don’t, they are readily available at public libraries and bookstores everywhere. For a special Christmas book, try A Little House Christmas, which brings together Christmas chapters from several of the books in a nice format for reading aloud.I don’t know why it’s so hard to find a recording of a solo fiddler playing Christmas songs. The nearest I could come in my collection was a CD by Vassar Clements, Norman and Nancy Blake, and some other folk and bluegrass musicians, called An Americana Christmas. From it I chose Cradle Hymn, better known as Away in a Manger; it’s the James R. Murray version which is best known to most Americans. Searching YouTube, I did find a couple of poorly recorded efforts by very young violinists, and was about to give up when I happened on this very nice violin-guitar duo which includes some fine pizzicato.