Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Book Review: Little Heathens

I clicked on my own label for book reviews recently and was stunned to see that I hadn't posted any since last August! I guess I've been so busy writing reviews for The Blogging Bookworm that I forgot to do any here. So anyway, I wanted to repeat a review of a fascinating little book for anyone who might have missed it. This is my week over at the worm, so check over there for something new as well.

"Little Heathens" by Mildred Armstrong Kadish is a little gem of a book. It is a memoir from the author’s childhood, which was spent on a farm in Iowa during the depression. The chapters paint such vivid pictures of life during that time that I actually recognized remnants of that era in my own family history.

I loved this book. I found it to be a kind of "Little House on the Prairie" set in the ‘30's. What impressed me the most was how hard everyone had to work. If we made our kids work that hard today, it wouldn’t be long before we received a nice little visit from a state social worker! Instead of being harmed by all the hard work, though, it set the author up with character and a work ethic that served her well the rest of her life. Made me wonder if I should be assigning a couple chores to my 4-year-old. :)

I’m not sure how much of the hard work reported in "Little Heathens" was due to the fact that the depression was happening versus how much was normal rural life without modern conveniences like electricity and running water. The main difference I can surmise is that during the depression, the adults lived with the constant worry that if they couldn’t pay their taxes, they would lose their property. (I remember from the "Frontier House" shows on PBS that the kids had a much easier time adjusting than the parents, and I can guess that the same was true during the depression.)

Kadish's family had to make everything, and do everything, from scratch – not unlike what some in the eco-movement are trying to recreate today. In depression era rural Iowa, however, there was no choice. After all that work, is it any wonder that people embraced every time saving and labor saving product invented? Now, of course, we recognize the wastefulness of some of those products. What a gift we have to be able to choose which labor saving technology to embrace and which to reject!

I’d give this beautifully written book an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars, recommended for all readers high school and up (there is some language you might not want your kids to read). I couldn’t put it down, and when I finished the last page, I returned to the preface. Before I knew it, I had reread the first three chapters. I would have kept right on reading, but I had work to do. If you want to know more about "Little Heathens," click here for an excellent review from one of my co-bookworms.


dogear6 said...

I loved this book also. My great-aunt in upstate New York lived that kind of life even into the late 1960's. I recognized a lot of it from when we used to visit every summer. It was hard times, but there was still joy and contentment.

Donna said...

That time seems to have left a lasting impact on a lot of people! Thanks for your comment.