Sunday, September 19, 2010

By the Shores of Silver Lake

We were waiting to start the next Little House book, By the Shores of Silver Lake, until school started, because we could get it out of the library there.  Since then, we've been reading it.  And tonight, we had a marathon reading session to finish it - reading about 80 pages in one sitting!  It was worth it.

The Story:  This one starts with a bit of tragedy, I'm warning you.  Illness has visited the Ingalls.  They all had Scarlett Fever.  Most of them came out of it ok, but weakened.  But Mary was struck blind.  Those of us who had seen the television series knew this was coming, but it was still sad.  And then, to top it all off, the faithful dog, Jack, who had been with them all the way from the Big Woods, died.  Amidst all of this, the Ingalls decided to move again.  After the grasshoppers ravaged their place near Plum Creek, they just couldn't recover well enough.  And, there were homesteads to be claimed further west, and good work preparing for the railroad to come through.  So, off they went - this time by train!   There is no shortage of adventure and historical learning to be had in their journey and their adventure in setting up their new homestead in the brand new town of Desmet in the Dakota Territory.

The Good:  There was lots of great moments to explain some historical facts to the girl while I read - homestead claims, claim jumpers, the process of preparing to build a railroad, and generally how people survived in that time.  The fact of Mary's blindness is not dwelled upon.  It's just another part of life, and one that they learned to deal with.  Laura is growing up, and is still spunky, but is showing growth and maturity.

The Bad:  The part explaining the railroad grading and preparation got kind of tedious and long (for me to read), but the girl didn't complain about it.  The part where Jack died was terribly sad.  We both cried together about it.

The Verdict:  Another chapter in the story of Laura and her family, this one is another winner, even with the sad bits.  Amazon recommends the book for ages 9-12, and I think that if she were reading it on her own, that might be more appropriate, but she liked it all the same at age 7 1/2, and got a lot out of it.  It turns out that her first unit in school this year is on early American history, so it's a great time to be reading this series!  We absolutely are looking forward to reading the next one.