Thursday, October 9, 2008

Review: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

rating: 4/5
genre: historical fiction/autobiography

Laura and her family have left their home in the big woods of Wisconsin. They have packed everything they own into a covered wagon and set off across the prairie into Kansas Territory. Each chapter gives us a glimpse into the daily lives and efforts of a prairie settler - as they stake their claim and build their house, dig their well, plant their garden, the story becomes almost a text book during these chapters. I worried that my 8 and nearly 6 year old would be bored by these more informative chapters, but they ate it up! We learned so much about life before electric lights and cars and hospitals. Laura's story transports you to a time where wolves are literally howling at your door and the food you eat is grown by the sweat of your own brow.

The story is told with plain but descriptive language - very accessible for younger listeners (and readers, I'd assume). Her timeless descriptions of the views and sounds of the prarie are almost poetic. Sometimes things get a bit long winded, but then again, this isn't a story with a heady plot. It is a story, however, with intense moments that really illustrate how much the Ingalls family depended on the mercy of mother nature and on the grace of the Indians whose homeland they were settling.

And yes, in this book, Native Americans are called Indians. They are also frequently called "savages," which is probably the reason why this book was banned. For me, I initially hesitated to actually read those parts aloud. Then I realized that the book was portraying the feelings of Pa and Ma and their neighbors at the time, and while I obviously do not agree with those feelings, they are historically accurate and a springboard for discussion about racism and history. My kids and I had an interesting talk about Native Americans and what was happening to them during this time period.

It took us a long time to get through this book. We savored each chapter and one was usually enough for each night - and if I ever mentioned setting it aside for a while and reading something lighter, the kids never took me up on it. And at the end (I won't spoil it for you), I could tell by their expressions that my children felt the same way I did: sorry it was over.


Anonymous said...

I loved that book as a child.

couplabz said...

All of the Little House books were some of my favorite books as a teenager. I also loved the TV show. It is CRAZY that this book was banned.

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