Review Little House on the Prairie (Full Color) by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams

Little House on the Prairie, published in 1935, is the third book in the Little House series but only the second that features the Ingalls family; it continues directly the story of the inaugural novel, Little House in the Big Woods.

The book tells about the months the Ingalls family spent on the prairie of Kansas, around the town of Independence, Kansas. At the beginning of this story, Pa Ingalls decides to sell the house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, and move the family, via covered wagon to the Indian Territory near Independence, Kansas, as there were widely circulating stories that the land (technically still under Osage ownership) would be opened to settlement by homesteaders imminently. So Laura, along with Pa and Ma, Mary, and baby Carrie, move to Kansas. Along the way, Pa trades his two horses for two Western mustangs, which Laura and Mary name Pet and Patty.

When the family reaches Indian Territory, they meet Mr. Edwards, who is extremely polite to Ma, but tells Laura and Mary that he is “a wildcat from Tennessee.” Mr. Edwards is an excellent neighbor, and helps the Ingalls in every way he can, beginning with helping Pa erect their house. Pa builds a roof and a floor for their house and digs a well, and the family is finally settled.

At their new home, unlike their time in the Big Woods, the family meets difficulty and danger. The Ingalls family becomes terribly ill from a disease called at that time “fever ‘n’ ague” (fever with severe chills and shaking) which was later identified as malaria. Laura comments on the varied ways they believe to have acquired it, with “Ma” believing it came from eating bad watermelon. Mrs. Scott, another neighbor, takes care of the family while they are sick. Around this time, Mr. Edwards brings Laura and Mary their Christmas presents from Independence, and in the spring, the Ingalls plant the beginnings of a small farm.

Irony also becomes a part of this book. Ma’s prejudice about American Indians, and Laura’s childish observations of them, are contrasted with Pa’s more egalitarian view of them, and these views collectively are shown side by side with the objective portrayal of the Osage tribe that lives on and owns that land.

At the end of this book, the family is told that the land must be vacated by settlers as it is not legally open to settlement yet, and in 1870 Pa elects to leave the land and move before the Army forcibly requires him to abandon the land.

 

 

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