Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Little Britches series

One of the most frequent questions I get, sometimes via emails from far away blog readers I have never met, is about books. Good books. Books I recommend for children to read.

I've written here before on what makes a book a good book. Since I wrote that, many other good books came into our lives. The James Herriot books, for instance, are shining examples of what a good book is. In every one of his stories of  the fascinating small-town veterinarian practice in Yorkshire, England, the reader swells with his hopeful message about how Love is what is real in the world. Even if I forget all of the animals and their clinical details of the book, the memories of listening those wonderful books with the girls will always bring to mind how James Herriot looked and found, in the human heart of rich or poor alike, the Love that he admired and how it was the force behind the good in his world. 

We are now in the middle of the Little Britches series, written by Ralph Moody. I cannot speak for Ralph Moody's later books, or his fiction. I am referring to his series of books for children which are also his autobiography. The books have all of the elements you would expect in a good story and more! Family love, courage, disappointments and celebrations, birth, death, creativity and adventures galore.

Little Britches is what his cowboys friends call the author when he is young, and learns to ride, to become quite the young cowboy. The story begins as the family moves to Colorado to see if Father gets better from his tuberculosis. What follows is the story of their very difficult life as ranchers. But behind the story is the quality of people they were. The author so beautifully writes about the virtues in his parents and how they taught him to be a person of integrity and character--most importantly by being people of integrity and character themselves, not to mention unbounded generosity. 

The writing is engaging, interesting, and we have such a hard time turning the iPad off when we arrive at our destinations! So there are trials, but also exciting, rewarding and celebratory times. There are inner struggles and frustrating episodes, there is patience, sacrifice, and love, lots of respecting love. 

I mean it. I have seldom read a book when the sacrificial decisions made because of Love were so excruciatingly difficult, and yet made with a heart who unflinchingly wants to do what is right. Yet in these books what emerges as the most beautiful episode so far is one that has me me pondering at night: Mother, after having enduring what is of hardest in this life--the loss of a husband while expecting their sixth child, incredibly hard physical work so as to feed and clothe her children--and finally finding a stable income and a little security in the community, makes the ultimate choice. She gives up everything they have achieved there, their relationships, their place in the community, their income, everything--so as to protect a man from being convicted. It is a long story, but she ends up being the only witness against him, and if she leaves the state he cannot be convicted of a crime she believes him "morally innocent" of.  She does ask the two older children to help her make this incredibly difficult, heart-breaking decision, and perhaps it is the best scene of the book: the two teenagers tell her, confidently, that they do not have to think of what Father would want them to do, they know: you put the Other's life before yours. The second book of the series ends with the mother and children, their hearts broken into pieces, exhausted and frightened, leaving everything they love behind, not even having had the chance to say goodbye.

That is what Love is. No matter the cost, we Love. Would I have done it? I doubt it very much. A widow with six kids? For a man who is half-crazy, a drunkard, who may never even know I did it for him? No, I doubt it. I'd find so many reasons to stay, and they would be excellent reasons. No one would ever blame me.

Had she acted like I probably would, and admittedly most everyone would, I don't think the delightful series Little Britches would have been written. It is exactly because he had such a Mother, and Father, and learned at home of Faith and Love, that Ralph Moody told himself he would write his story one day. 

1 comment:

Jeff Rivera said...

I love this review, very helpful indeed. It is good to know about books like this that have a huge amount of value for children to absorb. I look forward to more posts from you!