Title: Farmer Boy
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Series: Little House, book 5
Major Themes: Almanzo Wilder, Farming, New York
Synopsis: A year in the life of a young farm boy in New York is described in a way that makes you want to live with him!
We are enjoying reading our way through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. We read the first four books about Laura’s life first, and then switched to Farmer Boy, which tells the story of her husband Almanzo’s boyhood on a New York farm. This is an idyllic picture of his life; Laura, who was poor and hungry most of her life, obviously looked at his family’s life with somewhat of envy!
This story begins in the winter, with Almanzo trudging to school a mile and a half through deep snow. School was not a calm, peaceful place; the big boys from Hardscrabble Settlement were planning to beat up the teacher and close the school. Would Almanzo’s father be able to foil their plans? As the winter went on, Almanzo worked at training his calves to pull a sled and helped his father cut ice and make maple syrup. Then spring came and he helped plant the crops; through the summer he and his father and brother sheared the sheep and cultivated the crops. Then, fall came, and with it the harvest and the county fair. After that, the family celebrated Christmas, and then Almanzo helped his father with the winter farm work.
There are two themes that seem to run through the story: food and horses. The amount of food on the table for every meal, and the amount Almanzo ate, is incredible. Reading this book may make you hungry! As far as the horses, Almanzo’s father raised Morgans, and took great care in their training. Almanzo loved horses, and wished with all his heart that he could help to take care of them, but was not allowed to even touch the young ones. All through the year this book describes, he longed for a colt of his own to train. You will love reading about how he finally got his wish.
The family interactions are quite interesting to read about, too. Eliza Jane was a typical oldest sister, bossy and annoying—but with a heart of gold at the same time. Royal, as the older brother, could be bossy, too. Alice joined Almanzo in some of his adventures, even though she was a girl. This is a beautiful picture of a family working together to make their living. It is also a picture of a boy becoming a man, as Almanzo learned, through this year, to do a man’s work though he was only nine years old.
WARNING: The fourth chapter describes a fight at school. In chapter 9, one of Almanzo’s French friends is mentioned swearing. Almanzo swore in chapter 27. In chapter 28, someone calls Almanzo a durn boy.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15