Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Read our review of Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in the Little House Series.

Summary:  The Big Woods was getting too crowded.  So Pa sold the little log house and built a covered wagon.  They were moving to Indian country!  They traveled all the way from Wisconsin to Oklahoma, and there Pa built the little house on the prairie. 

All year long Ma, Pa, Mary, and Laura sank their spirits into their land and their safe little house.  But their land belonged to the Indians, and in the end the Government made them move on again.  (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  Little House on the Prairie is the second book in the Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It tells the story of the Ingalls family after they depart their small home in the woods of Wisconsin. They travel by covered wagon, to a place just inside Indian territory that has been rumored to be open to white settlers. There the Ingalls family builds a quaint but comfortable log home and Pa begins to till the land, while the family enjoys the freedom and beauty of living on the prairie. However, their time in Kansas isn’t without its troubles as the family is plagued by wolves, Indians, wildfire, and sickness.

I have always loved the Little House series, but it has been a while since I’ve read Little House on the Prairie. My children were enchanted by the descriptions of how to build a log home, fight a wildfire, and of the surprise birth of a young colt named Bunny.

Because the Ingalls planted their little house smack in the middle of tribal land, tensions run high, with disastrously racist results.  Many times Indians were portrayed as stinking, violent men who scalped, robbed, and otherwise persecuted the poor innocent white man. As an adult, I completely understand that the author was writing from her perspective at such a young age, and that she was merely repeating commonly held beliefs of the time. I did my best to try to explain to my children the basics of the Indians vs. Settlers conflict, that it was mostly over land, and that neither side cared much for nor truly understood the other. Still, was difficult to explain away the phrase “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” and the constant usages of descriptive terms like savage, fierce, and wild.

For their part, I don’t think my girls noticed (much), but because this book could perpetuate negative stereotypes, it would be wise to have a conversation with any young readers about the historical context of the story. If nothing else, it provides the opportunity to teach your children about the role of perspective within a story and how something can be presented as fact, without being factual.

I still maintain that this is an excellent series, despite its tendency towards the politically incorrect. The stories have just the right amount of description to hold a young readers attention and my children are always clamoring to see the pictures. We read through this book in a few short weeks and as soon as we finished, my girls ran downstairs to get the next one (we’re skipping Farmer Boy for the time being) and we immediately began On the Banks of Plum Creek.

My Rating: 4 Stars    For the sensitive reader: This book does contain some negative racial stereotypes, but nothing that can’t be surmounted with a bit of artful conversation.

Sum it Up: They came, they built, they got kicked out. LHOTP is an interesting, but not essential, part of the Little House Series.

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