In many of the Little House books, Laura mentions Pa’s big green animal book, sometimes referred to as The Wonders of the Animal World.
The book was really titled The Polar and Tropical Worlds by Dr. Georg Hartwig, so it is clear why Laura changed the name to a more child-friendly name, but in the original Pioneer Girl manuscript, Laura referred to it by its official title.
Here is the original green cover as Laura described.
The book was first introduced to readers in Little House in the Big Woods in the chapter Sundays.
They must sit quietly and listen while Ma read Bible stories to them, or stories about lions and tigers and white bears from Pa’s big green book, The Wonders of the Animal World. They might look at pictures, and they might hold their rag dolls nicely and talk to them. But there was nothing else they could do.
The book was mentioned in the original Pioneer Girl manuscript with a similar introduction about what her family did on Sundays, where Laura did refer to it as its proper name.
Ma read us stories out of the bible or about lions and tigers and white pears out of Pa’s big, green book “The Polar and Tropical Worlds.”
It was later mentioned in The Long Winter, where Laura likened exploring in the Big Slough like in a jungle adventure in the book. Then later, when Pa found an unusual bird, about how they couldn’t recall anything like it in the animal book.
“I got something to show you,” Pa said. He took his hand carefully out of his pocket. “Look here, girls, look at what I found hidden in a haystack.”
Slowly he opened his hand. In the hollow of his mitten sat a little bird. He put it gently in Mary’s hands.
“Why, it’s standing straight up!” Mary exclaimed, touching it lightly with her finger-tips.
They had never seen a bird like it. It was small, but it looked exactly like the picture of the great auk in Pa’s big green book, The Wonders of the Animal World.
- The Long Winter, Chapter 5 After the Storm
Later, after spending the day in the cold during a blizzard, Pa said he would later read about Livingston’s Africa from the animal book.
After Laura and Pa had twisted a great pile of hay sticks and stacked them by the stove, Carrie brought Pa his big green book.
“Please read about the lions, Pa,” she asked him. “We can play the wind is lions roaring.”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to have a light, Caroline,” Pa said. “This print is small.” Ma lighted the button lamp and set it by him. “Now,” he said, “this is a jungle night in Africa. The flickering light here is from our campfire. Wild animals are all around us, yowling and squealing and roaring, lions and tigers and hyenas and I guess a hippopotamus or two. They won’t come anywhere near us because they’re afraid of the fire. You hear big leaves rasping, too, and queer birds squawking. It’s a thick, black, hot night with big stars overhead. Now I’m going to read what happens.” He began to read.
- The Long Winter, Chapter 22 Cold and Dark
In These Happy Golden Years, Laura remarked how on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, both Grace and Carrie pored over the animal pictures in the big green book.
Today, Pa’s original book is on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum in Mansfield, Missouri.
- Hartwig, G. (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 820 Pages - 09/10/2010 (Publication Date) - Kessinger Publishing, LLC (Publisher)
The book is available to view online here and can also be downloaded in PDF or ePub format.