Book Review: On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

October 23, 2019 Book Reviews 2

Book Review: On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genres: Non-fiction, Historical, Autobiography, Middle Grade
Published by HarperTrophy on January 1, 2007
Pages: 358
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie

Fourth in the Little House historical biographical series for middle-grade readers that travels with the Ingalls family from Indian Territory in Kansas to a sod house in Minnesota in 1874.

My Take

It keeps getting scarier and scarier in Laura’s life! Of course, it doesn’t help that Laura is being quite naughty. Nor that she and Mary will have to go to school!

Worse, there’s a plague that will force Pa away for months.

Wilder introduces that tension quickly with Pa’s concerns about the soldiers in Kansas, the turbulence of Plum Creek, and my own worries about Pa’s naïveté when it comes to business deals. It sure doesn’t help when he takes out that loan to build Ma that house.

And then…that plague.

In between it all, we experience a life of subsistence that struggles to survive through blizzards, floods, fire, and crop failures. Wilder uses that third person objective point-of-view, so we know what’s happening through what the characters see and hear.

The flavor of life in the 1870s comes through with settlers who don’t speak English; salvaging Charlotte; a visiting preacher; the aid of neighbors; the fear for survival; entertaining themselves without the Internet or television with games, stories, and Pa’s violin; and, that we should be thankful for all that we take for granted today.

We should be glad that we’ve got the resources for all the clothing we have too, especially when we read of the excitement of the Ingalls’ ladies getting new dresses and stretching out those shoes.

And a Christmas that continues with the Ingalls’ traditions, adapting to their new life in Minnesota.

The Story

It’s the threat of government interference that sends the Ingalls to Minnesota and yet another homestead. This time, one that’s close to a school and a church.

From a cozy sod house to a house built with lumber, the Ingalls are coming up in the world, and all it will take is a bountiful wheat crop in summer.

The Characters

Pa (Charles) Ingalls leaves Kansas before the soldiers can arrive. His wife, Caroline, and he have three children: Mary (she’s almost nine), Laura (almost eight), and Carrie. Jack is their brindled bulldog. Bright and Pete are their oxen. Reet is a good little milch cow; she’ll become Spot. Sam and David are the Christmas horses. Charlotte is Laura’s rag doll who gets rescued.

Johnny Johnson is the herd boy. Sandy Kennedy is a red-headed boy whose siblings include Christy, Nettie, Cassie, and Donald. Nellie Oleson is a too-pretty bully; Willie is her equally rude little brother. Their father runs one of the stores. Revered Alden is the home missionary who goes from church to church. Mr Fitch also runs a store and had loaned Pa money. Miss Eva Beadle is the schoolteacher. Mrs Tower is the Sunday school teacher.

Mr Hanson is selling his Plum Creek property with its sod house and stable. The Norwegian Nelsons live a half mile farther up. They have a baby, Anna.

The Cover and Title

The cover is bordered top and bottom with mauve pink. The bottom edge of the top border has a scallop on either side of a same-colored box, outlined in black, with the series information and a little house with smoke coming from its chimney. The author’s name is in white at the very top in the border. The bottom border is a simple rectangle with the series information repeated. Mauve scrolls intrude into the central graphic that focuses on a happy Laura, her brown hair in braids, wearing a gold dress with brown ribbons on the sleeves and a cream apron tied around her waist with straps going over her shoulders. She’s sitting astride a white log, her legs dangling in the culvert it spans. In the background is Plum Creek, roaring out of a cavern-like mouth of stone. The title is in a shadowed white, just below Laura’s knees. A silver medallion is emplaced to the left of Laura’s waist.

The title reflects where we now find the Ingalls On the Banks of Plum Creek in Minnesota.

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