Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

You’ve probably read this book, but not for a long time. I read this book, and the whole series a lot of times when I was younger, but recently decided to reread it, and I’m having a very different experience and am understanding a lot more!

So, to recap it for you, in Little House on the Prairie, Laura, Mary, baby Carrie, Ma and Pa go from the big woods in Wisconsin, to live in Indian Territory. After living there for a while, they get the message that the settlers aren’t actually allowed to live there. They then leave, and move on, and the rest of that story is told in the next little house book, On the Banks of Plum Creek.

While some people might at first think that this is like your average pioneer family story, and I’ve read quite a few of them, in my opinion, there are quite a few things that sets Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing apart from a lot of the rest.

1 First of all, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a pioneer. I know that might seem obvious, but a lot of historical fiction set around that era was written more recently. These books are written by a woman who as a young girl actually experienced all of the stuff you learn about in school, so that gives her an edge that really sets her writing apart.

2 The second is that she doesn’t really have a filter. I don’t mean this in a bad way to anyone, but nowadays, when you’re reading a book about pioneers, the author is most likely being wary about what they write, and making sure not to write anything that would seem offensive. Laura, on the other hand, has many places in her books where the characters are slightly, or not so slightly racist.

Ma, in Little House on the Prairie, is very afraid of the Indians, and does not think of them as equals. Mr Scott, a neighbor, repeatedly says that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” which is a horrible thing to say. In her books, Laura does write that Pa doesn’t completely agree with this, and Laura, I think from what appears in her writing, realizes as time goes on that she and her family and friends were wrong.

3The third, is that she tells about almost everything, good and bad that happens, but in a way that most adults and younger kids alike will understand.

My example for this is when Pa and Mr Scott, their neighbor are making the Ingalls’ well. They’ve been digging for a few days, and at one point Mr Scott goes down and breathes in poisonous gas that has been trapped underground that they released while digging. Laura writes that Mr Scott doesn’t send down the little pouch of gunpowder, and that Pa always does. Pa ends up going down and carrying Mr Scott while Ma pulls them up, and while everyone ends up okay, it is still a scary experience.

A kid reading this chapter would probably take away the message that you should always be careful when you’re building a well, and would also probably think it was an interesting plot twist.

An adult would think that Mr Scott should have been more careful, and that it was an interesting example of the perils of pioneer life.

I’m sure that there have and will be many more takeaways from this story, but my point is that in her writing, Laura Ingalls Wilder appeals to both kids and adults.

So, all in all, I think that the little house books are really special, and that you should consider reading them if you haven’t yet, or if you haven’t read them in a long time, because I think that everyone can learn a lot and get a lot out of reading these books.

Thanks for reading!

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