As I read Laddie, I noticed several themes throughout the book.
The first theme was nature. Little Sister goes in to much detail in some parts of the book describing her natural surroundings, how comfortable she is within that environment, and how she adores God’s creations. I found it interesting that her pets and playmates were a blue jay and two chickens.
In a couple of places in the book, Mother and Father either explain to their children or are looking over their property. They reflect on the beauty as well as the many uses they have gained from their property. As an example, the fruit trees they have planted provide food in the fall, as well as beautiful blossoms in the spring.
The second theme was education, but more importantly, how and where this education was acquired. Little Sister had a fairly vast amount of knowledge for a six or eight year old. Her father taught her all about nature as they walked and worked together around their property. It sounds like she had a large amount of time to freely roam the property. She learned to find answers to her questions from Father, and in the books their family owned. Formal education didn’t suit her; she wanted to be outside. She learned her lessons in the top of the granary.
Father was well-read through the books and agricultural magazines he read every evening. Mother gained her education at the same time her older children were learning and going to school. Father knew Mother had very little time for studying, and read to her and discussed with her while she worked. Most evenings were spent with the children memorizing and then reciting their lessons to Father. I share Laddie’s opinion that you never ‘finish’ your education. You are learning all the time until you die.
In addition to school knowledge, each child had a list of skills to learn according to their gender before getting married. Mother made sure each of her daughters could care for a home, and tested those skills as she took a vacation for one month. Father made sure each son could do all the work necessary for running a farm, and left them in charge for a period of time.
The next theme was moral character. There are plenty of examples of hard work, compassion, and conviction. The parents did their best not to judge those neighbors who worked hard. However, they made their opinions known to their children of community members who didn’t work and lived off the sympathies and guilt of their neighbors. Mother showed compassion by living the principle of doing unto others when she took in travelers just as she and Father had been taken in when they first arrived in the community. Laddie showed his conviction to be true to himself in choosing farming as his profession instead of a lawyer, as the Princess desired. Your profession does not define who you are.
The last theme was relationships with other people and also the animals. The most prominent relationship is between Laddie and Little Sister. He loved her from the day she was born. He helped her in her learning. He confided secrets to her. They had a special bond.
Little Sister was very observant of her siblings, and knew how to interact with each of them. She mentions that Leon had a different personality, and she was the only one who understood him.
Whereas some members of the community avoided interactions with other individuals and families, the Stantons were friendly with neighbors, regardless of status. Laddie went the extra mile to work his way into the social graces of Mr. Pryor, so he could date Pamela. My favorite example of relationships is between Laddie and Mr. Pryor’s dogs, much to the surprise of Mr. Pryor.
This family was very religious. The parents had a personal relationship with God. Little Sister tells of the time Leon went after the ‘Even So’ traveler. She would hear her parents pray for Leon and said it sounded like God was in the room with them. Because of this relationship, Father was not afraid to tell Mr. Pryor that his opinion God was a myth was offensive and not to repeat it in his home, even though Mr. Pryor became very angry.
Although there are more themes in this book, I focused on education, nature, moral character, and relationships.