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The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder is the sixth of the eight books that make up the Little House on the Prairie series. In this book, the Ingalls family are still working their claim, living in the shack they have built over the summer months, but with an especially early and hard winter coming upon them, they’re forced to move back into the more solid house they had built in the town in order to survive.

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This book does exactly as the title suggests and focuses on the long winter that, according to this book, nearly did for the Ingalls’ family over a particularly brutal seven month period in which continual blizzards forced them to the extremes of what they could survive. Now relying on the railroad to bring much needed supplies to the town, when it cannot get through and the rail company decide to cry off until the spring, the family, indeed, the inhabitants of the town, are forced to take desperate measures.

In this book we finally get to see where Almanzo, the man who would eventually go on to be Laura’s husband, meets the Ingalls’ family, and is actually partly responsible for saving their lives. If you read the books in sequence you will already have met Almanzo in the book, Farmer Boy. His childhood, although very different from Laura’s and much more privileged, also makes for fascinating reading, and it’s great to see the two life stories connecting here.

In the last book, Laura wrestled with her reluctance to grow up and take on more womanly responsibilities. Here we see her coming to terms with her fate as the teacher her mother wants her to be, not for her own satisfaction, but because she is determined to help her sister, Mary get to a school for the blind, and she knows her salary will be needed. We also see her having to grow up during the terrible months of the winter, because she is more aware of the danger they are in, and has to shoulder more of a burden. I miss the old, carefree, Laura, and it’s kind of sad to see her independent spirit being squashed under the weight of such responsibilities, but it will be interesting to see what effect Almanzo has on her in the next book.

Wonderful stories for children aged eight and up. I love this series more and more as I read on.

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