Little House in the Big Woods: Summary & Setting

Instructor: Abby Federico

Abby has taught elementary special education and has her master's degree in this area.

This lesson will summarize the book 'Little House in the Big Woods' by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In addition, this lesson will explore the book's setting.

Background Information

Little House in the Big Woods was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and it was published in 1932. The book is autobiographical, which means it is based on the author's own life. In fact, this book, the first in a series of nine Little House books, is based on Wilder's memories of her early childhood, and is told from her point of view. She was born Laura Ingalls, adding her husband's name of ''Wilder'' after she got married.


The setting of a book is where and when it takes place. The setting for Little House in the Big Woods is in the state of Wisconsin in 1871. The story focuses on the main character's log cabin (the little house) that is in a forest (the big woods). A log cabin is a small home made of logs from trees. Their cabin is near the town of Pepin.

Log cabin

Summary of Little House in the Big Woods

In Little House in the Big Woods Laura is just four years old and lives in a log cabin in the woods with her family. She lives with her father, whom she calls Pa, her mother, whom she calls Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their dog Jack. Laura and her family are pioneers, or people who are exploring and settling a new area, in this instance, her family was a part of the growing population of pioneers who at the time were beginning to explore and move to the West.

Their life can be very hard at times because they have to catch, hunt, and grow all of their own food because there are no large grocery stores or any restaurants nearby where they could go and buy food. In the book, Laura's family has to prepare for winter's often inclement weather by gathering and saving enough food to last throughout the whole season. Christmas in the little cabin is also much different than what children nowadays experience because the Ingalls family makes all of their own gifts. Even the toys are handmade by Laura and her family.

After Laura's family survives the winter, the whole family helps with planting in the spring. This is important and very necessary because they will need this food to eat throughout the summer and into the next winter. Laura and her family all have chores, or jobs, that they need to do. Laura's Pa hunts for animals, traps for fur, and takes care of their farm animals while Laura and her sisters help their Ma with cleaning the house, storing food, and cooking.

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