Monday, July 03, 2006

Little Town On the Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Memoir, Children's

For the first time in this series, you really get a sense of living close to other people. For once, the Ingalls have neighbors, and lots of them, within miles, instead of one or two neighbors within a few miles and then forty miles to the nearest town. That changes the tenor of the book; instead of a litany of how each task is done for solitary survival, the books contain all of the social things that happened in frontier towns. Everybody bored with winter? Have a spelling bee, or a "waxworks" display of famous people, or a minstrel show, yes, using blackface and all that implies. (Modern children, reading this laudatory description, may wonder why minstrel shows are considered so offensive.) Or have a church "sociable" or dinner, and at Christmas have a town tree.

Laura also gets to experience a birthday party for the first time, as well as a job. She makes friends in school and works hard on her studies so that she can become a teacher and send Mary off to college for the blind. The farm is plagued by pests, both rodent and avian; the family gets a cat, a proud hunter who does her part. And most of all, Laura gets a suitor, a gentleman who "sees her home" from public gatherings.

This is one of my favorite books in the series.


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