Little Britches

[openbook booknumber=”0803281781″]


Ralph Moody, similar to the style of Laura Ingalls Wilder, wrote a series of books about his life dating back to 1906. His first book, Little Britches, starts when he is eight years old and his family moves from New Hampshire to Colorado to start life on a ranch out west. His father’s health isn’t so great, so fresh air and wide open spaces was what the doctor ordered. They arrive to find things not quite as they were lead to believe. But, through hard work and ingenuity they find a way to make things work, for a little while. Ralph never really knew his father before then, but with Ralph the closest thing to another man to rely on his father started working with him and teaching things he would need to know to grow up and “build a house of character”. Between these lessons, and some others he learns the hard way, Ralph grows and talks about his experiences out west at the turn of the century.

He had bucked harder with me than the fellows expected him to, and I don’t know how I stayed on. I guess I was just too scared to fall off. Anyway, Mr. Cooper shook hands with me after Hi lifted me down. He said, “By God, you’re going to make a cow poke, Little Britches. As long as you’re with me you can call him your own horse.” Then he laughed, and said to the other men, “I thought, by God, the kid was going to pull that one-inch hackamore rope in two before the music stopped.”
       Father never swore, and I know I wouldn’t ever have said it out loud, but before I really knew what I was thinking, “By God, I thought so, too,” went through my head.

I found myself enjoying this book quite a lot as it reminded me almost of a “boys” version of the Little House on the Prairie. I don’t remember quite so much ethics being instilled in that series as there is in Little Britches. Ralph Moody talks about his father’s lessons and writes some very strong themes about character and about morality about hard work and ethics and about what it takes to be a man that is respected.

His writing was simple and straight forward and very refreshing. It was very clean reading, and easy and simple for a ten-year-old to read and enjoy. The humor was also very well done, either in droll remembrances or occasionally in the dialog, some of it designed to go over eight-year-old Ralph’s head, and some of it designed to go over a child reader’s head as well to the parent over their shoulder. There is also some swearing, but it is mild and placed in a negative light.

I enjoyed reading about the variety of colorful characters introduced, from the Native American Two Dog to the Cowboy Hi. The situations and troubles he gets himself in and out of will be at once familiar to a school age child (fights at school, chores at home and interfering siblings) and potentially foreign (meeting the sheriff in a saloon, learning how to trick ride a horse, working as a cow hand on a ranch). Familiar enough to learn from, interesting enough to keep their attention.

I would definitely recommend this book and the series that follows to any young kids that might already be interested in similar books, such as the Little House on the Prairie series. It has some good strong messages and is some easy, clean reading that you can enjoy at any age.

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