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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book Review: Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas

Charlotte and her family move a lot, but she's tired of it, and she likes living in Kentucky where they know which church in their neighborhood has the spaghetti supper and which church has a big Sunday brunch. So when her mother announces they're moving to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, so that she can continue her burgeoning children's writing career in a place infused with the spirit of Laura Ingalls, Charlotte feels Laura Ingalls is ruining her life. So when they arrive and she's assigned an essay at school about Laura Ingalls, that's what she titles it.

Normally she's okay with moving but this time, she was sick when school started so her twin brother Freddy started without her, and when she arrived, she found to her shock that he'd made friends for the first time and she felt left out. They'd always been a team. Now she has to hang out with her younger half-sister Rose instead and also with the girl upstairs (they rent the basement from her grandparents) who she doesn't really like. And over the course of the year, eventually Charlotte starts to fit in, make friends, and understand Walnut Grove.

On the surface, this is a great book for 11-year-olds about moving and making friends and fitting in. However, there's a lot more meat to it for more mature kids (or for adults). Kids not ready for the more mature material won't really notice much of it, such as that in Kentucky it was really important that they knew which church had which free meal on which day, because these kids are poorer than they realize and are getting the majority of their meals this way. Their mom is doing the best she can but she has a bad track record with men (see the missing fathers of her kids) and it's hard to chase your dreams while raising three kids solo.

You certainly don't need to have read the Little House books to enjoy this book (although there are Easter eggs in it for those of us who have). It's helpful to know the books exist, but anything else you need to know is well covered.

This book is poignant, at times worrisome although with a hopeful ending, and some very real kids who leap off the page with personality and emotions. I absolutely loved it. She left the door open for a possible sequel which I would leap on eagerly. I think any middle school age kid would enjoy it, and Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will devour it.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I got this book for free from the publisher, my employer, Macmillan.

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