Little House on the Prairie is the second in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the first being The House in the Big Woods, which I read and reviewed on here before Christmas.
I’d never read the series as a child. Now I’m not sure why I didn’t, because I absolutely love them. I started this book yesterday afternoon and if there hadn’t been domestic interruptions I would have finished it in one sitting.
The books tell the fictionalised story of Laura’s own childhood growing up in America, when it was still possible to roam around the country, building your home, being self sufficient, and living off what the land provides. Ingots Wilder was born in 1867 and the books are fascinating because not only are they absorbing and well written but they give a sense of life to the history of the American settlers that text books just do not offer.
In this book, Laura and her family move from the big woods of Wisconsin across the country to the endless prairie lands that seem to go on forever. Laura loves it, as does her father, who imagines them settling there for life. In reality they last only a year before the government threaten to move them on, and Laura’s father packs them up and sets off once again.
Each chapter deals with a different aspect of life on the prairie, building the house, tilling the land, their neighbours and the ever present worry of the native Indians who the homesteaders have a complicated relationship with.
I was totally absorbed in this book. It was a real pleasure to read and I can see why they are considered classics and are perennially popular. I only wish I’d read them as a child and given myself the pleasure of re-reading them over the years. I shall just have to start late.
The books are suitable for confident readers aged 7-12. I’d suggest that they will interest girls most, but there are aspects of the books, if you sold them to boys properly, that would probably hook them too. The episodes with wolves and the wildness of the country, the hunting and the ever present danger of life lived in such solitary conditions give a real edge to some of the chapters, that make these more than just cutesy memories.