Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Just after somebody in the blogosphere mentioned reading these books I saw this omnibus in a charity shop, so I thought it was the perfect time to see what they are like, better late than never as I missed out on them as a wee girl. I think that Judith Reader in the Wilderness said that she particularly enjoyed On the Banks of Plum Creek.

The writing is quite simple and repetitive (apparently that’s the secret of Agatha Christie’s success) so it’s perfect for young readers. I suppose I really mean girls because I can’t imagine boys being interested in the books. The Ingalls family consists of Ma/Caroline, Pa/Charles and their three daughters Mary, Laura and baby Carrie.

Little House in the Big Woods is set in Wisconsin in a very remote area where there are no other houses, roads and people but the place is teeming with animals, including wolves and bears and life is good for the Ingalls family although it has to be said that their diet is meat heavy! But Pa isn’t happy when more people move into the area and he decides to move his family West. There’s a lot to learn from this book – how to make and colour butter, make cheese, make a straw hat – all sorts.

So in Little House on the Prairie the wagon rolled and they crossed the Mississippi and headed across the prairie to Indian country and after some adventures Pa eventually decided on what he thought was a good spot to build the new house. In no time flat that house was built and if only I had the logs, the land and the strength I think I could build one too, I’ve certainly learned how to do it! Unfortunately Pa has built the house right beside an Indian trail. The locals aren’t happy and they let the Ingalls know about it with nights of war whooping and dancing. Before they lose their scalps Pa decides to move on again when he hears that the government won’t help to move the Indians away. So they have to leave that lovely house with real glass in the windows. It was at this point that I decided that Ma must be just about the most placid wife and mother in fiction. I might have killed Pa/Charles.

In On the Banks of Plum Creek the family has travelled across Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and a long way into Minnesota and at the end of the journey they end up living in a house which was dug into the creek bank, a bit of a come down and thereare hard times ahead for the family.

If I had read these books when I was about 9 or 10 I think that I would have inhabited the pages. I really identified with Laura which I hadn’t expected because I had remembered her as being an annoying whining character in the tv series. In fact I think that’s the reason that I didn’t read the books originally. She’s a feisty tom-boy, happy playing in the creek and I laughed when she finally decided to sew a patchwork quilt, because she wasn’t happy doing a simple nine patch one like her sister Mary. She had to go for a more complicated design, and I know that feeling so well, and then I get into a fankle and wish I had started off with an easier thing and worked my way up to the difficult one.

As an adult the whole make-do-and-mend way of life really appeals to me and I like to think I would have coped with being a pioneer. But then again there were the Indians, wolves, bears, grasshoppers, heat, snow – so maybe not then. The howling gales from all directions I do cope with!

I think there are more books in the series so I will read them if I can. Has anyone read any others?

6 thoughts on “Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

  1. Oh my goodness, I read them over and over as a child, they’re very big here in the US, especially in the Midwest where I grew up. My favorite of the books is actually Farmer Boy which is about her husband’s childhood — he gets in some real scrapes which are pretty funny. And there are lots of great descriptions of food which I really love. There’s a section where Almanzo, her future husband, goes to the State Fair or some gathering and he talks about all the different things they eat. “And then he took a deep breath, and ate pie.” She goes on to describe about seven different types of pie that he eats. I just love that.

    I also really liked The Long Winter and On the Banks of Plum Creek. I reread part of Little House in the Big Woods with my daughter not long ago and I still loved it. I really need to read these again!

    • Karen,

      I wish I had read them as a child. We have two sons and there have only been a few times when I wished I had a daughter too, this is one of them. It would be lovely to read girly books which I missed out on and introduce her to books which I had loved. I think I’ll have to take a look in the junior library to see if they have any more. Jane GS has just done a post on a book called The Wilder Years which sounds interesting too.

  2. Despite growing up with the tv show and loving it, I’ve never read any of the books. Like Karen said, they are still really popular here in the US. My library has about a shelf and a half of them in our youth area. I always recommend them to moms who are looking for wholesome, inoffensive stuff for their kids to read. I’m not sure if I’ll ever read them, but I do like the idea of them.

    • Anbolyn,

      I think they are worth reading as an adult but maybe only if you don’t already know a lot about the life of American pioneers. It’s all quite exotic to me but I know that bloggers like Judith do actually have bears near where she lives.
      In the tv series I seem to remember that Laura annoyed me because she seemed to be quite spoiled. I think she was the youngest, I don’t remember baby Carrie being in it. I was the youngest in my family but definitely wasn’t spoiled. In the book Laura seemed to be a better character. I love the idea of living in a log cabin but the reality is probably not so good. I’m passing this omnibus on to a young girl who has just started reading and loving Blyton’s Malory Towers series, I think she’ll like these too.

  3. Katrina,
    Finally, finally, I have a minute to respond to your post about Little House on the Prairie. You know, it’s funny, this is the one book I have not read as an adult! I want to fix this situation ASAP, especially since this title is Wendy McClure’s (author of The Wilder Life–see blog) favorite.

    Thanks for posting and spreading the word!


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