Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, October 17, 2011


“Ralph Moody's books should be read aloud in every family circle in America” — Sterling North.

This treasure is not to be missed!  During a recent stay at my sister's house, my 10- and 12-year old nephew and niece told me I had to read and review one of their family's favorite read alouds, LITTLE BRITCHES, by Ralph Moody, for my blog.  Inspired by their excitement (and the fact that another of my blog readers had also recommended this book), I started it immediately.

LITTLE BRITCHES: Father and I Were Ranchers, is the recounting -- by a boy -- of simpler times living on a ranch in Colorado in the early 1900's; but like the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE books, simpler doesn't mean easier.  The tremendous difficulties this family faced and overcame are unfathomable by today's modern standards, but weren't all that out of the ordinary for families living out West a hundred years ago!

Denver & RioGrande Railroad
The book's author and main character, Ralph Moody, was the second of six children born in New Hampshire to Charles and Mary Moody.  The story begins in 1906, when Ralph is eight. His family buys a small ranch (sight unseen) in Colorado, hoping the dry climate will ease the condition of the father's tuberculosis. The farmhouse is in such bad shambles that Charles and Ralph are forced to spend many days scavenging for materials.  While they make repairs, the rest of the family lives in a Denver hotel. On the day the family finally takes the train to their new home, their two horses are frightened away by coyotes and become entangled on a railway trestle. So begin the adventures and life lessons that Ralph recalls more than forty years later.

The main theme of the book is the deep love and trust between a father and son, with some humor, lots of hard work, school mischief, a tornado, horses, cowboys, and roundups thrown in. (Boys, especially, will love this book.)
Colorado roundup
A true hero, Ralph is not perfect, and is always learning from his mistakes.  You can feel the joy in Moody's retelling of his childhood days, as well as the ache in his heart when recalls his patient father..."I wish I knew how Father was able to say things so as to make you remember every word of it.  If I could remember everything the way I remember the things Father told me, maybe I could be as smart a man as he was."

I was riveted throughout the whole book and shed tears at the end. (Don't worry, the gripping story continues in the next book of the series: MAN OF THE FAMILY). I loved LITTLE BRITCHES because without being overly sentimental, it relates the gallantry, love, and perseverance of families who settled some of the most challenging frontiers of our country.

"My goal in writing is to leave a record of the rural way of life in this country during the early part of the 20th century, and to point up the values of the era which I feel that we, as a people, are letting slip away from us." -Ralph Owen Moody

Source for this post: Littleton History.

Go to Beautiful Feet Books for information about all the books in the series, for 3rd grade and up.  (Note about the language:  the cowboys and some of the ranchers use a bit of rough language that is realistic to the time, but which can easily be edited, if you're not comfortable with that during family read aloud time.)


  1. I bought all eight books as a special treat for myself earlier this year and I'm already on the third read-through. They're well-written, but they're also just plain good (as in, making me want to be a better person).

    I wish I'd heard of them earlier!

  2. Me too - I'm sad I missed out reading them aloud to my kids. (But at least they can read them to their children, when the time comes!) Which was your favorite?

  3. I'm reading this to my older two children, ages 8 (girl who loves horses) and 6 (boy). It reminds us of Farmer Boy but we all agree that we like Little Britches better! I couldn't wait and I skipped to the end and read ahead and I did cry. I told my local librarians about the book. Besides the rich content, I like how the chapters are a great length for nightly reading. It is a true treasure, thank you so much!! - Alexandra Gonzalez

    1. Since you liked "Little Britches" so much, you might also enjoy "Summer of the Monkeys", another wonderful (and touching) chapter book - about a brother and sister, so it's perfect for boys AND girls. Here's my review of it: http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2012/02/boy-and-his-grandpa-engage-in-some.html