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On The Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder is the fourth in the series of her Little House on the Prairie books.

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The books are based on her childhood recollections of growing up in a pioneer family, constantly moving from place to place and attempting to find somewhere to settle. In this book, Laura is 9 and her family have moved to Minnesota, swapping the sturdy ponies they travel with for a sod hut by the banks of Plum Creek, and eventually building a house nearby.

Father believes that this is the place they will settle and make their fortune from wheat, borrowing against the crop to build a more sturdy house than Laura has ever known before. Sadly setback after setback befalls them including floods, blizzards, drought and plagues of grasshoppers that tear through the crops meaning that Laura’s father has to leave his family behind, travelling hundreds of miles to find work and pay off their debts.

In the meantime, Laura and her older sister Mary are closer to civilisation than they ever have been before, and they start to walk three miles to the nearest town every day to go to school, where they begin to learn to read and write, and go to church.

This is the most dramatic of the Prairie books so far. There is so much going on in each chapter it is quite a roller coaster ride. You get a real sense of the hardships of a life like the one lived by Laura’s family and the danger that they must have been perpetually in. It’s a rich and fascinating world that Ingalls Wilder paints and you can see more and more why these books have endured to become the classics they are.

I would recommend them for children aged 7 to 12. Although they focus on Laura’s life, these are not just books for girls. There is so much adventure here that they read much like Tom Sawyer at times. I think these will continue to enthral children for generations to come and rightly so.

 

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