29.7.12

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE by Laura Ingalls Wilder



Finally, after spending part of my childhood watching Laura Ingalls Wilder's exciting experiences on TV I made up my mind to read this book out of the long series of the Little House books.

Little House in the Prairie is  a one year journal about Laura' s family and its adventures and daily life on the vast prairie. 

Charles and Caroline, respectively Pa and Ma, load their covered wagon with a few basic things and their three daughters, Mary, Laura and baby Carrie, to move from the crowded Big Woods, in Wisconsin, to the Indian Territory, which, as Charles has been told, is about to open to settlement.

After crossing the Mississippi river and several more frozen streams they stop and start  their new lives  on the immense prairie, 40 miles south of Independence, Kansas. 

At this point the book change into a boy scout manual. 

Long descriptions of the surrounding environment introduce us to all kinds of plants and animals that live on the Prairie.

Plenty of details are provided about how to build a house, its fireplace, the chimney  (beds, tables, rocking chairs, the well, the stable etc.) only using natural material like logs, rocks, and mud plus some tools and a few nails. Actually at one point Pa runs out of nails, but this inconvenience doesn't stop him making a completely nail free door. 

Charles Ingalls hunts to get fresh meat to eat and furs to sell up in Independence to make money and buy things like sugar or tobacco, but especially seeds to start growing the family's own food.

An interesting point of view is presented when they meet Indians. Pa is willing to create a respectful relationship in order to avoid any problems. Ma doesn't like them at all, Mary is scared but Laura is absolutely curious about them and she especially wants to see a 'papoose'. 
Actually Laura is the only one who questions the right of settlers to occupy Indian Territory. 

Good relationships among neighbors are another special topic of the book. Helping  each other is definitively essential to survive on that rough land where "fever n' ague", wolves, panthers or even a prairie fire could end your life at any moment. 

I suppose that this is one of those fundamental books to use to teach your students one of the most important moment in American history. 

It's engaging and can inspire many school activities to go deeper into how people lived in the 19th Century. 
Here on these web pages you can find some ideas to make the most of them.