...and while I'm still firmly in denial mode (I like her in Virginia), I am enjoying all the goodies she unearths in the process. Se sure to visit the Bonny Glen today to read about how God brought a great good out of a tragic situation and the Martha books were born amidst the trials and sufferings of a young family fighting leukemia.
And since we're unearthing old memories, I remember when Lissa first reached out to me and offered to write the foreword to my book. I declined. I hadn't read any of the Martha and Charlotte books. As a matter of fact, I thought them heresy. How dare anyone try to further Laura Ingalls Wilder's own series?! The audacity! To understand my devotion to Laura, you must know that I consider those books an integral part of my childhood, a driving force in the formation of who I was to become as an adult and second only to my children's Bible when I consider how I survived some very difficult growing years. When I wanted an example of a strong, faithful, and compassionate father, I looked to Pa. When I wondered how to behave as a mother in a household full of chidren despite trial and tribulation, I studied Ma. I studied every nuance of Ma's responses to Pa and Ma's responses to her children. I even memorized Ma's housekeeping routine! And when I wanted an example of a confident child whose whole childhood was preparing her to be a writer, I had Laura. No one could mess with Laura in my opinion. But something nudged me to read Lissa's books, probably the loveliness of Lissa's online posting--I wanted to know what she could do with fiction.
So, for my "babymoon" after Stephen was born, I binge read them all. And I found that someone could take the inspiration of Laura Ingalls Wilder, honor her legacy, and write something even better. There. I've said it in public. I think the Melissa Wiley Little House books are even better than the Laura Ingalls Wilder originals. They are richer, more complex, more lyrical. They are finely woven tapestries. Every word, every page, every turn of the plot is carefully measured and artfully crafted. In a time when so many series for children are cranked out in the vein of Captain Underpants, Martha and Charlotte shine alone. For they are truly children's literature. They are art.
The Martha and Charlotte books, like the Laura books, are set apart because they respect children. They love children. Laura wrote during a time when children were prized and cherished. The Martha and Charlotte books are written during a time when children are prevented and discarded before they ever see the light of day. And, sadly, much of the publishing industry treats children as commodities but not as precious minds and hearts in need of art to be fed to their souls. The publishing industry churns out much twaddle these days, making lots of money off of children but hating them right along with the much of the popular culture. They offer fare that is stripped, dumbed down, and beneath the dignity of the child. Books like the Martha and Charlotte books are the exceptions--they respect children; they love children. They give them the rich experiences for which literature is intended.
They are books that can take a little girl in a sad home situation or a child in a leukemia ward and transport her to a place of hope. And once she's there, the books have enough depth and texture to keep her there, to stay with her, to carry her through. And one day, someone will ask that child--now grown up-- who influenced her to become such a good mother, to put so much emphasis on family and love and fullness of life, and she will stop and ponder. And then, she will reply confidently, "Martha Morse and Charlotte Tucker." Remembering that she is grown and that they are characters in a childhood book, she'll revise her answer, "Melissa Wiley. Melissa Wiley made my childhood good. Really."