I read all the The Little House on the Prairie books when I was growing up and I loved them. I read them to Lee when he was 6, and now I am reading them to Asa (Lee says he doesn't like being read to, but he always seems to be hanging around when we are reading this series...)
i'm pretty sure most people think of these books as 'girl' books- but our boys LOVE them.
they love the historical aspect and how different Laura and Mary's lives were from their own. there are so many fascinating details of how things were done "in the old days"- from building a log cabin, a door with hinges, or a smokehouse out of an old tree, to maple sugaring to butchering and putting away food for the winter, to planting crops, to making all the food the family ate and all the clothes they wore. the books are also incredibly gritty- picture bears in the barnyard, panthers prowling the prairie, snowstorms, prairie fires, boys attacked by bees. We often talk about Laura and Mary's and Almoanzo's lives- and how easy these guys have it!! Those kids worked so hard and were really considered second class in so many ways ("Children should be seen and not heard," corporal punishment, served last at meals) and they appreciated what they had so much. In the second book, Larua gets an actual rag doll for Christmas- before that she used a dried corn cob for a doll!
The one big downside- and it is really big- is that the second book is really racist toward Native Americans. The family has moved to Indian Territory and has a number of run-ins with Indians. I read to the kids the actual story line in the book of what happens- and it's a really good starting point for talking about how the US government and settlers treated the Indians so badly and with so much dishonesty and trickery. But I left out the blatantly racist and horrible comments that Ma and some of the neighbours make. I didn't even want those ideas floating around in their young minds. The actual American history in the book is something else. it's not pretty- but we can still read it and discuss it.
We have been meaning to make some of the food described in the book. Asa especially wants to try fried apples and onions- Almanzo's favourite food. After a desription of how to make butter we did make some the other day. Put some whipping cream in a jar- and SHAKE IT!!
i imagine i will have read this series three times in adulthood by the time we're through, and I have to say i don't mind at all!