The Long Winter?
The story begins with Laura offering to help Pa with the haying. Although she is very young, he relents so that he can finish before winter. Even with her small size and limited strength, she does her best and they complete the task. I loved it that she willingly gave of herself even though it was hard. The first night she goes to bed with a feeling of accomplishment: Laura was proud. Her arms ached and her back ached and her legs ached, and that night in bed she ached all over so badly that tears swelled out of her eyes, but she did not tell anyone." (p. 9) That's almost impossible to believe in the selfish, selfie-crazed, "look at me!" world that we live in.
Everyone in the story gives of themselves even when it seems like there is nothing left to give. During that long winter they are hit by blizzard after blizzard. The food and fuel run out. The general store is bare. But complaining is forbidden. Each one is expected to do their part to keep the home running. Ma Ingalls invents recipes out of odds and ends that are left over. She creates a "button lamp" when the kerosene is gone. When there is no more coal, Mr. Ingalls comes up with a solution.
I appreciated the patience and kindness that were expressed during their trials. When Pa comes back from the store with the only food item that was left, Ma expresses her thanks, saying how thoughtful it was for him to know that they would need tea on the upcoming cold nights. With no prospect of Christmas gifts of any kind, Ma and the girls gather up their pennies and nickels to buy one item the stores are not out of - a pair of suspenders for Pa. The girls are as thrilled to give this present as their father is to receive it.
Sacrificial love is a repeated theme in all of the books and one of the reasons they merit multiple readings. A fun element in this book is that Almonzo Wilder is introduced as a part of the community. (His story is told in Book Four, Farmer Boy, but that is before he moves out west and meets the Ingalls' family.) He and his older brother Royal have several interactions with Mr. Ingalls, but not the rest of the family yet.
I was so immersed in the story of multiple blizzards that I was surprised to look up and see the sun shining through my window! And I shed a tear for joy when the "Chinook" finally blew in.
This is probably my favorite Little House book so far.