Title: By the Shores of Silver Lake
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Series: Little House, book 4
Major Themes: Laura Ingalls Wilder, North Dakota, Pioneers
Synopsis: Laura and her family follow the railroad west to the prairies, where they plan to settle down for good.
As I have mentioned before, I have loved the Little House books as long as I can remember. They are wonderful stories of family and making a happy life with little. Ma Ingalls was an amazing woman!
By the Shores of Silver Lake begins a few years after On the Banks of Plum Creek ends. The positive outlook that book ends with has evaporated; scanty harvests have made the family poorer than ever, especially since half of the family was very sick, and Mary even went blind from her illness. Then, Aunt Docia shows up with a proposition for Pa that he can’t resist, and the family is on the move again. This time, they go from Minnesota to Dakota Territory, where Pa will work for the railroad company. His optimism is back again—this time, they will settle down for good on the homestead he plans to find, and now they’ll make their fortune!
The Ingalls family spend a wonderful winter nearly alone in the only house on Silver Lake, where the town of De Smet will be. They enjoy singing to the music of Pa’s fiddle in the evenings, celebrate Christmas with a newlywed couple who make it through the snow to join them, and go skating across the frozen lake in the moonlight. Then, spring comes—and the rush of settlers grabbing up every section of land for miles around. Suddenly, Laura’s life has changed again, and she’s not sure she likes it.
This is a delightful peek into the American frontier in the 1870s. Laura saw the country as it was before it was settled, and had a part in settling it—and she also had the knack of describing what she saw. We really enjoyed this book, although one of my sharp listeners caught a mistake at the beginning. In the beginning of On the Banks of Plum Creek, Pa traded the wagon cover to the man he bought their farm in Minnesota from. At the beginning of By the Shores of Silver Lake, though, they mended the old wagon cover and used it again! Oops.
WARNING: Pa uses a few words I don’t appreciate. I noted darned in chapter 7 and chapter 13; he says “By George” and “Jumping Jehoshaphat” in chapter 21; he says, “By Jove” in chapter 22 and uses the words blamed and golly in chapter 25. He says, “I’ll be jiggered” in chapter 26 and “by George” in chapter 27. Pa says that someone killed a man in chapter 9. Laura’s cousin says gosh in chapter 13. A fight is mentioned in chapter 25 and a murder in chapter 27.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15