Thursday, June 5, 2014

I'm so glad they did it

As part of homeschooling for my kids a few years ago, I decided to share some excellent books from my past with them. They were two of my favourite old series. One was the "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the other was the "All Creatures Great and Small" series by James Herriot. And whenever I read either of these two authors I'm caught up in their stories instantly. Even though these two authors may seem poles apart, they actually have a lot in common.

Both of these series are autobiographical but written in very entertaining story styles. Both were written when their authors had grown quite old and were looking back over their own lives. They each decided to leave their own legacy in writing and I'm so grateful they did. What a lot of history, geography and even science are tied into these fun, human-interest books. Putting readers into their own places with their descriptions has to got to be one of my favourite ways to learn.

We learned a lot about that pioneer time in America when Laura and her family were moving west that helped us put our own lives in perspective. And we developed a real feeling for the late 1930s in Yorkshire when James first became a vet, not to mention noticing the vast progress in technology that's happened in those 80 years. And we've cracked up laughing at some of his hilarious anecdotes. I can't help thinking that if neither of these authors had written, we'd be so much poorer without knowing it.

That started me speculating about the number of people with fascinating stories who think they couldn't possibly record them and don't bother trying. Or the ones who do and then leave them in their cupboards. So I'm sure we are already poorer without knowing it in thousands of ways. Maybe anybody with a knack or passion for writing and recording in an interesting way ought to regard it as a sort of duty to record them because we never know who we'll touch. Even if it's unlikely that we'll become as famous as Laura Ingalls Wilder or James Herriot, doing it for the love of it and for those who may be touched is a worthwhile enough goal anyway.

My father has been writing my own grandfather's story this way. I never knew that grandfather. He died almost ten years before I was born but I've recently got to know him through typing my own father's family history. My grandfather (his father) was born in 1892. He had lots of interesting things happen to him. He served in both wars and he was the boxing champion of South Australia for several years. There is lots of information about him, including several funny anecdotes that happened around the country-side and in the ring. How much poorer we would have been if none of these stories had come to light. I was born in the 1970s, and even time that recent comes across as the Dark Ages to my kids. Perhaps we all should consider scribing some record of our past for posterity, as times seem to change so quickly.

Paula Vince is a South Australian, award-winning author of contemporary fiction. She believes a good story has the power to touch hearts and lives in a way nothing else can. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills of South Australia with her family.


  1. So true. My kids with their cell phones can scarcely imagine a time when, we actually had to share a phone line with neighbors...called a party line. And LPs, what are those? :) I love the All Creatures Great and Small series.

  2. Hi Sandra,
    It's mind blowing, when we think about it, that so much change has happened in so short a time, and equally so that people have adapted to it all so casually.
    Yes, I loved the series for sticking close to the books.

  3. Wonderful! I loved the 'Little House' books....I read them every year!

  4. That's fantastic, Jenn. I was glad when my daughter grew old enough to read them with her. They are so worth returning to over again.

  5. When I homeschool my childrren back in the 80s we discovered the Little House series. We even got the cookbook and made some of the food. Although my two oldest were boys they enjoyed the series. Our friend who was an uncle to our kids would visit every weekend and read All Creature Great and Small to the family. (We had no TV during our home schooling years,) He even purchased the picture books for the kids features some of those stories. Autobiographies wonderfully bring history to life and give the reader a feeling of time and place. Reading those books together was a bonding experience. We went on to read many biographies as a family. Thanks for remindnig me of a sweet time with my children.

  6. Hi,
    Those years pass swiftly, don't they? One of the loveliest things about homeschooling is being able to focus on whatever takes our fancy. I can't imagine a normal school curriculum giving as much time to those two authors as we did. I'm glad it brought back lovely memories.