Title: Little Town on the Prairie
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Series: Little House, book 7
Major Themes: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Life, Pioneer Life, South Dakota
Synopsis: During the first two years that the little town of DeSmet exists on the prairie of North Dakota, Laura and her family struggle to make a living and send blind Mary to college.
We are very much enjoying working our way through the Little House series again! The tone of the books changes slightly as Laura gets older, but they are still wonderful stories. We have just finished Little Town on the Prairie. I don’t know if the children picked up on it, but I was amazed at the intense emphasis on studying and memorizing through this story.
Little Town on the Prairie picks up where The Long Winter ends. The Ingalls family had just moved back out to their claim and they were enjoying early spring. Soon, there was food from the garden, and fresh milk, as well as a calf to care for—and mice! I loved the story of the solution to that problem. Then, Laura unexpectedly got a job in town, and the money she earned was enough to send Mary to college. Ma and the girls spent time sewing for her, and Laura did such a good job of description that we could feel the heat of working on a wool dress for winter—in the middle of a Dakota summer! The plague of blackbirds were awful to read about, too.
Come fall, the family moved back into town—just in case. Laura and Carrie had the privilege of going to school all winter, but the fall term turned out to be horrible. It was actually a good picture of what happens when children are not restrained. We had a lot of fun reading about the “whirl of gaiety” that they all got caught up in after Christmas, as the town came together to have fun on Friday evenings. The second winter told about in the book was nearly as good, as the church became a much bigger part of community life…and then Almanzo began walking Laura home from evening functions. The family writes letters to Mary every week, and mention is made that Ma was teaching Grace to read and write. And then, the biggest surprise of all comes in the last chapter of the book.
This is a wonderful story of life on the frontier during the homesteading era. The hardships of beginning a farm on the Great Plains are not glossed over, but Laura didn’t dwell on them, either. She showed both the joys and the trials of those first years. It is also a delightful introduction to Laura’s courtship, while she was still oblivious to why Almanzo was walking her home. One passage that struck me as quite interesting was during the first summer described in this book, when Laura came to the realization that adults have to make themselves be good—that keeping God’s laws is the only way to be free.
WARNING: Pa says “by jingo” (chapter 2) and “I swear” (chapter 3); other people say “by glory” and “by gosh”, and call someone a “young cuss” in chapter 8. A man swears in chapter 5, and in chapter 6 Laura watches two drunks. In chapter 21, several men of the town perform a minstrel show, pretending to be “darkies.”
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15