Saturday, January 1, 2011

Book Review: Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I always read the last 4 Little House books right in a row. Because mostly I love the narrative of Laura and Almanzo falling in love, which is dragged out across all four books. This book is truly momentous. First, Mary goes away to college. Which I was shocked to notice is for 6 years, not 4 (also, she's only 16 when she leaves if I'm doing my math right.) This was the first time it occurred to Laura that a part of growing up is leaving home, which she suddenly swears she's never going to do. And that's precisely when Almanzo shows up, asking if he can walk her home.

Laura also goes to work in this book, and works doggedly, as she's obviously just like Pa. It's funny that Laura, like Scarlet O'Hara before her, thinks incessantly about how much she wants to be good like Ma (and Mary), when she's just like her father. In fact, it's the gutsy, hard-working, occasionally temper-prone among us who make good book protagonists. Not the earnest, good types with no sense of humor (sorry Ma, you're great in every other way but neither you nor Mary laugh very much at all. You even chide Pa sometimes for his puns.) First Laura sews, and at the end she is offered a teaching job.

Interestingly, starting in the previous book, Laura the author fudges on Almanzo's age. In The Long Winter he is 19, and Laura is 13. In real life, they were 10 years apart in age, but it just doesn't sound right for a 25-year-old to be courting a 15-year-old, even if the 15-year-old is a teacher. But Pa trusts Almanzo and we trust Pa.

In this book we are get - ugh - the return of Nellie Oleson. Seriously, in the whole of the Western US, why did she have to come to DeSmet? It is comforting that she is now a country girl while Laura is the town girl, but she's definitely one of the more unpleasant girls out there. Mostly in this book Laura starts to blossom as a young lady. She goes to a sociable and gets name cards. She wants to cut bangs in her hair and wear long dresses. She likes to be fashionable and she has several friends. She doesn't realize it but she's gaining people skills, social skills, and learning to be more comfortable in crowds. This will serve her later, teaching.

This book,with relatively few winter storms, almost makes one long to be back in the 1880s Dakotas. With the exception of having to memorize the whole of American history from Columbus through John Quincy Adams. The books definitely take a turn towards YA from here on out.

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

I requested this book from a friend at the publisher. It was provided for free, many years ago, with no expectation of any review, favorable or otherwise.


Kate said...

Hmmm - makes me want to revisit this series. I loved them as a kid, although I think I may have skipped "Farmer Boy" and "The Long Winter". I'm not sure.

Julie P. said...

Your review makes me want to go back and read all of these again. I loved these books so much!

Tracey M. said...

Love your choice! It's amazing that I didn't get into these when I was a kid (I watched the TV show with Melissa Gilbert). Lo and behold I rediscovered these a couple years before my son was born and read the entire series. I just love them. It's something about going back to those "simpler" days yet so challenging to live as a settler.