It’s the end of February and that means the end of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge for this year!
A week from today I’ll use random.org to draw a name from the comments on this post to win either The Little House Cookbook compiled by Barbara M. Walker or Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson, or a similarly-priced book related to Laura. A week should give some of us who are still reading time to finish up and post about our reading. You don’t have to have a blog to participate: you can tell us what you read in the comments here. If you have a blog, you can either let us know what you read in the comments or share the links back to any reviews or challenge-related posts from your blog or even from Goodreads if you review books there.
Before I go any further, I need to apologize for something. I had created a book list of books by, about, or somehow related to Laura. Some of them I had not read but had heard about or seen. Two of them turned out to have objectionable content. I have removed them from that list, and I feel terrible that some of you chose those books, probably because of seeing them on that list. I am going to be much more careful about that in the future, and, once again, I sincerely apologize for having books with serious problems on a recommended book list here.
For my own part, I did have to lay aside one I was reading: Death On the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst. It’s a modern-day mystery involving a quilt that might have been owned by Laura, might even have been made by Laura, being given to a historic museum curator named Chloe. She decides to go with her sister, with whom she had not been close lately, on a tour of all the Laura historical sites to consult with others and see if she can find out more information plus, as per the owner’s wishes, decide which of those sites to donate the quilt to. But early on a mysterious death occurs at the first site, which I assume later on is discovered to be a murder, and that somehow involves Chloe. I was irritated by some bad language (damns and hells), and then bothered by some vulgar words, and finally an appearance of the “f” word caused me to shut the book and give up on it. But it wasn’t grabbing me anyway. The writing was a little juvenile in places (one example: “Oh-boy-oh-boy-oh-boy! Chloe thought with giddy glee,” p. 6) and not great in others (“Something quivered beneath Chloe’s ribs, as if one of her heart-strings had been plucked,” p. 8). And, then, it was inaccurate in at least one place: when Chloe visits the site in Burr Oak, Iowa, the tour guide tells them this segment in the Ingalls’ life, where they manage a hotel next to a saloon, is neither in the books nor the TV series. It’s not in the LH books, but it is in the TV series, in season 5. The town is called Winoka there rather than Burr Oak, and the Dakota Hotel rather than the Masters Hotel, and the timing may have been different, but they are definitely helping in a hotel next to a saloon. Anyway, for all of those reasons and a couple more, the story just wasn’t grabbing me, but the language was “the last straw” that made me put it down. It’s too bad, because it sounded like it would have been good. Most of the reviews I’ve seen are positive, so a lot of other people liked it better than I did.
Other than that, for this year’s challenge I read:
The First Four Years by Laura, about her first four years of marriage. The manuscript was found among her papers after her death and published later after Rose’s death. They had quite a rough go of it at first, but in true pioneer spirit they summon the strength to persevere. I quite enjoyed rereading this.
I looked through several of the My First Little House books, designed for 4-8-year-olds. I have not reviewed them nor had a chance to show them to Timothy, but Rebekah has an excellent review here (where I first learned of them!) They are gorgeous, illustrated by Jody Wheeler and Renee Graf, “inspired by the work of Garth Williams with his permission.” I am so glad they kept with a similar style of the books that many of us grew up with. I have not read each of the thirteen books word for word yet, but from what I did read and what Rebekah said, they seem to follow the books very closely, except, of course, for being condensed and adapted for a younger child.
I’m still working on Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell. This was not at all on my radar, but I just happened to notice it while passing through the children’s section of the library. It’s more YA than a children’s book, though, recommended for ages 12 and up. It’s about a modern-day family with several issues going for an extended “Camp Frontier,” where they are supposed to live like they did in the 1890s. The kids, of course, are not excited. The main character, Gen, manages to smuggle in a cell phone, where she texts about the experience to her friends, who put the texts on a blog which then goes viral. There’s a requisite mean girl and cute guy, along with a goth friend and several other characters. So far this seems pretty good – I hope it continues to be! I’ll review it in full when I am done. It’s not really directly related to LIW so far except to reference her a couple of times, like the mom in the family having been “a Laura Ingalls Wilder addict.” (Update: my review is here.)
So that’s my Laura reading this year. 🙂 A few years ago, I thought I might end the challenge with the last book in the LH series, but I have found more LIW books that I want to read, so we’ll look forward to continuing on next year!
In the meantime, I am looking forward to finding out what you read and what you thought about it!