Book Report: On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1937, ?)

Book coverWhen we last left the Ingalls family (Little House on the Prairie in September), the Ingalls family had to leave their home in Kansas. Instead of returning to Wisconsin, they headed to Minnesota. The book opens with Charles, the father, trading his horses and wagon for a sod house beside a creek with a Norwegian farmer looking to move west.

The book covers a couple of years, unlike the first ones in the series. Hopeful of a good crop of wheat, the Ingalls family builds a house on credit only to run into trouble when plagues of grasshoppers destroy the crop right before harvest. Charles has to walk a hundred miles to the east to find work through the harvest season to support the family. And although the first winter is very mild, the second is definitely more snowy than they’re used to–even in Wisconsin.

The book hints at some perhaps poor decision making by the father who had previously been omnicompetent. He buys a bunch on credit, and then cannot pay it off with the wheat crop. When he’s harvesting back east, he sends four dollars back to his family–and buys himself a new pair of boots for three dollars. One wonders how these stories appear in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s adult book Pioneer Girl.

Of course, I might just be reading more into this children’s book than I should. But I’m looking for a double-effect narrator that the author does not intend.

So I’ve got the next book, On the Shores of Silver Lake, so I will probably read it before the summer. I’ll also keep my eyes open for the others in the series and for Pioneer Girl, her more adult memoir, at the coming spring library book sales. Given how close we are to her home down in Marshfield, I should find them pretty easily. I hope. Because I really am enjoying the series and, apparently, my second childhood.

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