Our next Buddy Read is the classic by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Another Buddy Read for us: The classic story of a family who decides to leave Wisconsin and move west to Indian Territory, the prairies of Kansas.
Little House on the Prairie (Little House #2), Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: YA, Classic, Western
Published 1935, 306 pages
Somehow I went through my whole childhood without reading this book. It's definitely a middle grade book with a simple, straightforward story line and language. It's not one of my favorite genres - it was an 'okay' read.
I was struck by the behavior that Laura finds "naughty" - a word she thought often. Whether it's that "children are meant to be seen, not heard" or that she wanted something for Christmas, she chastised herself for being naughty. Her mother ruled with a very quiet authority and it apparently just took a firm "Laura" to bring her into line, which kids today would obviously not relate to!
There are interesting descriptions of building a house from scratch, of the beauty of the prairie, and the pattern of their day to day lives. The girls played outside in the prairie when not doing chores! Imagine that!
It would be a good read-aloud book with a child, offering lots of opportunity for discussion. It might be hard for kids of today to relate to the simpler time - specifically I'm thinking of the Christmas celebration, or just playing outside with whatever you can find - but could be an opportunity to illustrate the difference between the "now" and "then".
There is some interaction with Native Americans which is portrayed in a racist way, though accurate to the prevailing attitude at that time. The frequent reference to "fierce red men" and the women's fear of them offers another teaching opportunity. The book even touches on the government forcing Indians from their territories and the Ingalls seeing it as their right to settle the land.
I know this book is geared towards children or young adults. But I don’t see why this book would appeal to a young adult. The book was heavy on description of land and spent a lot of energy telling about the building of their house, traveling in their wagon, and travel across the big, boring prairie. Also, it had no humor.
It juxtaposes between the boring, detailed descriptions of how they built their house (even their front door) and the stable and vast expanse of land to (1) high water on river crossing and potential loss of dog Jack, (2) prairie fire, (3) scary Indians. Those are the only three things that “happen” in the book. Otherwise it’s just a look at their daily life, which is not interesting. Nor are the characters themselves interesting.
Also, the ending bothered me. It didn’t make sense to me that they would pack up and leave the house they spent so much time building when they could move just a couple miles away, off the Indian territory, as required by the government. Since I didn't particularly enjoy the book, I don’t know who this book would appeal to, but then I'm obviously not the target audience.