Sunday, July 25, 2010

Little House on the Prairie

We just read Little House on the Prairie, the third book in the Little House Series.  We got it out of the library, and I am trying to bust through them to get the series read before school starts again.. we'll see if we make that goal, but this one only took about a week!  Super fun.

The Story: 
Laura's family decided to leave their little house in the big woods, and set out across the countryside in their covered wagon, to settle in the prairie in Kansas.  Pa built a new log cabin for them there, and they set up their new home.  There were challenges, not the least of which was the fact that their new home was in the middle of Indian territory..

The Good:  Wonderful historic detail!  The ins and outs of building a log cabin, complete with chimney and fireplace, forging a homestead in the middle of the wild prairie, traveling cross-country by covered wagon, American Indian-settler relations... there was a lot to learn here, and it was learned in wonderful ways.  As a character, Laura is very easy for Evalina to relate to.  I asked her what her favorite part of the book was, and she said "Laura!"  There were a lot of teaching moments - especially about American Indians.  She hasn't really learned much about native Americans in school yet, so it was good to learn a bit here.  The story is compelling and very well written.

The Bad:  Right in the beginning, there was a near tragedy, and the outlook didn't look so good for a bit (I will not spoil it here), and there were tears.  There are some tense moments - a prairie fire, a bout of malaria, scary moments with the Indians... but, nothing enough to make me not want to read these books to her!

The Verdict:  Love it.  Evalina loved it.  We learned a lot (yes, I learned some, too!) and can't wait to read more of the books.  We plan to make some trips to local places this summer to reinforce some of the learning - I think there is a working farm in the area where she can learn about milking cows and such.  And there's a log cabin in the area as well that we want to go check out.  Totally classics, that I think would be fun for a boy or a girl.  It might be better for a slightly older child, with a little more historical background, but it wasn't too far over her head.  I can't wait until we are all done reading the books, and then I want to get the television series for the kids to watch.  I cannot believe I never read these books myself.  That's one great thing about reading to your kids - you get to read some of the books you always meant to read as a child but never got around to!  The fun is never ending!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Farmer Boy

It took us a while to get through Farmer Boy, the second book in the Little House Series.  It was long, and dense, and Evalina was reading other books at the same time, sometimes with her father (they are re-reading Narnia together.  He's never read them).

That doesn't mean we didn't love it!

The Story:  This is the story of Almanzo Wilder's childhood, in upstate New York, near Malone, when he was 9-10 years old.  It went into a lot of detail about what life on the farm was like.  Almanzo is the youngest of four children, and his family runs a very successful farm.  His father is a very smart and capable farmer, and wants to raise Almanzo to be a good farmer, too.  Almanzo wants the same thing.  He learns all of the tricks of the trade, and works very very hard.  It's a very educational book in that regard.

The Good:  There was lots of information about what it was like to grow up on a farm in the 19th century.  Almanzo as a character was really likable, and he felt very real (I know, based on a true story, so...)  The level of detail was amazing.  We have an illustrated version, so there were some pictures to show Evalina what certain things were.  She really enjoyed the story.

The Bad:  I have never read these books before, but it felt out of flow with the story of Laura and her family.  I enjoyed reading about Almanzo's childhood, but I missed the people from the first book.  I had to do some explaining about the "children not speaking until they are spoken to," and some other bits.. for instance, when Almanzo's parents left them for a week in charge of themselves and the farm and they did a lot of making ice cream and toffee and not a lot of anything else until it was right before their parents came home... I suppose that was the Risky Business of the era.  Of course some of the parenting skills since then have changed, and there were some tanning of hides, etc, that I had to explain.  Still, I think it is good for her to know about.

The Verdict:  Good book, with a lot of historical background and some good characters that I know we will read about later on in the series.  Almanzo's growth throughout the book was palpable.  He matured a lot in the year or so that the book covered, and it was very interesting to see.  I kind of wanted to get back to the "main" story, though, with Laura's family and the story I am more familiar with because of the tv show.  As part of the series, a good part.  Somehow, I don't think it will be my favorite of the series.