Monday, October 19, 2015

Not Just for Boys

Growing up in a family of girls, the ways of boys were always a bit of a mystery for me. Since raising three of my own, I understand them more, but this is also in part thanks to Ralph Moody.

Otherwise known as "Little Britches," Ralph enlightened me considerably about a boy's thirst for danger, especially if it involves high risk to life and limb. Beneath the bravado and swaggering self-confidence of a lad who feared no challenge from untamed horses or men who ride the range, was a heart that beat with incomparable loyalty and protectiveness for friends and family. Even as I held my breath for him during his various escapades, I admired his struggles to honor and obey his parents while proving himself to be a trustworthy and honest son who spared no effort to help support and provide for them.

When the first book opens, Ralph's family is moving from New England to settle in Colorado where they have been promised prosperity and improved climate for his father's weak lungs. Upon arrival, they discover no paradise, but face a life of hardship, poverty, drought and a fight for survival. Ralph's ingenuity and resourcefulness are impressive, his calamities and mishaps entertaining, and the family's work ethic and industriousness beyond praiseworthy.

The Little Britches series, a total of eight novels that trace Ralph's adventurous and character-testing ten years of growing from boy to man, is superb reading for the entire family. The perils of life in the west and trials of a family to survive appeal to every age. My three-year-old granddaughter laughs and cries with the rest of us and I have lost count of the fathers I know who have been drawn into reading because of sharing this series with their children. The picture Moody unfolds of a family who work together through one grueling crisis after another is heart-warming and inspirational, but Ralph's exuberance to prove himself a cowboy, ranch hand, and trick rider, are so filled with hilarious and breathtaking episodes, the laughter lightens the load.

It is not, however, the charm of Moody's writing style and appeal to children that strikes me as most valuable in these lively chronicles, neither is it the character lessons, which abound. Ralph is a grand hero for sure, but for me as a parent, it is the exceeding wisdom of the parents behind this impetuous and irrepressible young son that makes them the true heroes for me. I'll never forget the lessons his father taught me as he took Ralph to the woodshed and communicated the truth of the disastrous consequences of lying by giving him a powerful word picture, nor how his mother perceived Ralph's emerging virtues and yet firmly curbed his impetuous impulses. Their lessons for Ralph have been my lessons in dealing with my own boys.

By the time Ralph is an adult, all the values they have so tirelessly instilled have borne fruit. Ralph not only does not kill himself bronco-busting, cattle driving and stunt riding (miraculous though this is), but his exemplary dealings with people reveal true virtue. Ralph was a little guy as a child and small of stature as a man, but towers over the men around him in integrity, honesty and courage. No parent wants anything less for their sons, so my hat is off to the parents of Little Britches.

Read them all:

10 comments:

  1. I heartily recommend this series too! Unfortunately, the books in this series are seldom found in the used book market OR in public libraries. So save your pennies and buy them as you can. You will be giving all members of your family a real gift!

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    1. At any rate:

      Lisa, thank you for the advice. Though definitely not as pretty or as nice as the original hardcovers, we are thankful that the entire series is now available as reprints in paperback.
      Liz

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  2. Hi Liz,
    Would these books appeal to 17yo boys? Would they appear "too young" for an average boy this age?

    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Kelly,

      My father, 66 at the time, enjoyed them, my husband in his 40's, so I think they have appeal for all ages. Ralph's daring would amuse a boy of any age, I think, and the later half of the series is when Ralph is your son's age.

      Liz

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    2. Thank you, Liz. I am always looking for book ideas for my 17yo nephews so these look like they will fit the bill. Thank you so much!

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  3. We LOVE these too, Liz! And yes, I chuckled, because my husband LOVES them and took over reading them at night! I think I may have bought them out of order though as we are almost done with Home Ranch and I thought Mary Emma and Company was next...oops. Oh well. :) We will keep going! Thanks for this lovely review of them. Amy

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    1. Amy,

      I read them in this order: 1, 7, 5, 6, 8, 2, 4, 3. I didn't have any trouble making sense of them. They are the perfect mix of everything that makes a book good.

      Liz

      p.s. (This is Emily chiming in) The Home Ranch takes place entirely within the time frame of Man of the Family, so it can be read whenever, in my opinion. The action of the story really leaves you hanging at the end of Man of the Family, and picks right up with Mary Emma and Company.

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  4. That makes sense!!! As Home Ranch is sort of Ralph's time on the ranch...taking a break from the story of him with the family!!! Thank you...I'm getting it! ;)

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  5. I have Little Britches on my shelf--I bought it in the spring (?)-- but we have yet to read it. Thank you for this push. I will move it to the top of our read-aloud list.

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    1. Kimberlee,

      Get ready for some delicious hours together. After just finishing the series in the past few months, I'm tempted to reread Little Britches again.

      Liz

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