It’s your friendly KF on KND Editor April Hamilton here, with a personal recommendation.
I first shared the excellent Little Britches series way back in 2013, but at that time only the first book in the series was available in Kindle format. Now that they’re ALL out in Kindle format, I want to highlight them once again because these books were so important to me in my own youth. What I wrote about them back in 2013 is no less true today:
Every day, my fifth grade teacher Mr. B would pick a random time to pick up the book and read us a chapter or two aloud. He never announced it, he never asked us to quiet down first, and he never made an effort to be heard above our ruckus. He would simply open the book to where he’d left off and start to read in his normal tone of voice — but with a slight Southern inflection, to match the setting of the story.
Without fail, in moments we’d be shushing each other and settling into rapt silence, completely absorbed in this simple tale of a boy and his family scratching out a hard living in frontier times. Through every trial and setback (and there were many), it was their love and respect for one another and their rock-solid character that carried them ever onward. I didn’t know it at the time, but this book and the series it launched were true stories about the author’s own youth and upbringing.
Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers is the book that set my literary life in motion. This book, and Mr. B’s reading of it, turned me into a voracious reader, and a writer as well.
Ralph Moody was eight years old in 1906 when his family moved from New Hampshire to a Colorado ranch. Through his eyes we experience the pleasures and perils of ranching there early in the twentieth century. Auctions and roundups, family picnics, irrigation wars, tornadoes and wind storms give authentic color to Little Britches. So do adventures, wonderfully told, that equip Ralph to take his father’s place when it becomes necessary.
Little Britches was the literary debut of Ralph Moody, who wrote about the adventures of his family in eight glorious books, all available as Bison Books.
Little Britches becomes the “man” in his family after his father’s early death, taking on the concomitant responsibilities as well as opportunities. During the summer of his twelfth year he works on a cattle ranch in the shadow of Pike’s Peak, earning a dollar a day.
Little Britches is tested against seasoned cowboys on the range and in the corral. He drives cattle through a dust storm, eats his weight in flapjacks, and falls in love with a blue outlaw horse.
Following Little Britches and developing an episode noted near the end of Man of the Family, The Home Ranch continues the adventures of young Ralph Moody. Soon after returning from the ranch, he and his mother and siblings will go east for a new start, described in Mary Emma & Company and The Fields of Home. All these titles have been reprinted as Bison Books.
The protagonist, Mary Emma Moody, widowed mother of six, has taken her family east in 1912 to begin a new life. Her son, Ralph, then thirteen, recalls how the Moodys survive that first bleak winter in a Massachusetts town. Money and prospects are lacking, but not so faith and resourcefulness. “Mother” in Little Britches and Man of the Family, Mary Emma emerges fully as a character in this book, and Ralph, no longer called “Little Britches,” comes into his own.
The family’s run-ins with authority and with broken furnaces in winter are evocative of a full and warm family life.
Mary Emma & Company continues the Moody saga that started in Colorado with Little Britches and runs through Man of the Family and The Home Ranch. All these titles have been reprinted as Bison Books, as has The Fields of Home, in which Ralph leaves the Massachusetts town for his grandfather’s farm in Maine.
The fatherless Moody family moved from Colorado to Medford, Massachusetts, in 1912, when Ralph was entering his teens.
“I tried as hard as I could to be a city boy, but I didn’t have very good luck,” he says at the beginning of The Fields of Home. “Just little things that would have been all right in Colorado were always getting me in trouble.”
So he is sent to his grandfather’s farm in Maine, where he finds a new set of adventures.