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.

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