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Little Britches by Ralph Moody
University of Nebraska Press
Number of pages:


This remarkable account of three years in the author’s boyhood reads like fiction but reflects authentic experience and emotion. Ralph’s father has been fighting illness, his lungs severely damaged by work in the woolen mills of New Hampshire. A well-meaning but not fully reliable relative in Colorado urges the sight-unseen purchase of a ranch near Denver. In 1906 the Moody family —father, mother, Ralph, and his four brothers and sisters – move to what turns out to be marginal land and a tumbledown shack. Ralph has just had his eighth birthday, but in the difficult circumstances he, the eldest son, is soon seriously involved, along with his father, in the work of family survival. A father and mother of remarkable character and the often self-willed, sometimes mischievous, and wholly lovable young Ralph are the central figures in this saga of courage, determination, ingenuity, and family devotion.

Life in Colorado is not only full of exhausting toil, danger, suspense, and crisis but of loyal friendships and family celebrations as well. In the world of the ranches around him, Ralph learns a somewhat hazardous but wonderfully satisfying new skill and finds his own special niche.

Strong points:

  • Little Britches is an unusual and enthralling true story that underscores the strength and value of family bonds and bone-deep integrity.
  • The book introduces boys to the world of cattle ranching in the West as it existed not too long ago. It makes them aware of their American roots.
  • Ralph practices virtue, although on a natural level.


The teacher needs to be aware that there are a few brief and scattered instances of mild profanity used by some occasional characters in the story. Just one notable instance occurs in the latter part of the book in which the cowboy-rancher group express intense emotions with a cluster of profanity. In a class read-aloud project, the teacher can omit these sentences.


This book has a lot to offer the elementary school teacher by way of the forming of good character. Most boys will find the book interesting and the story of Ralph’s first adventures will give them the desire to read the other books of the series.