It’s a heck of a book that kills off the loyal family dog in Chapter Two.
I wasn’t sure that Small Girl would have the patience for Little House On The Prairie. There aren’t too many illustrations and she is only 4 ¾ (she’s claiming the ¾ and I’m clinging to it). Her reading material so far has required an abundance of princesses or fairies, ideally Fairy Princesses.
I need not have worried. We were on to a winner at the first mention of Kansas (major Wizard Of Oz phase on-going).
‘Do you like it?’ I enquired after Chapter One.
‘I love it’, she said and my heart turned over.
I got nervous again when the Ingalls’ dog, Jack, is lost as the family fords a deep creek. I considered editing as I read but poor Jack’s disappearance didn’t seem to affect Small Girl as much as it did me. Anyway, the episode is crucial to the story.
Pa did not whistle about his work as usual, and after a while he said, ‘And what we’ll do in a wild country without a good watchdog I don’t know.’
The book hits harder than the TV series. This is in no way at all a girlie tale. This is a detailed and factual account of a huge adventure. There is no shortage of genuine peril and mortal danger.
Charles Ingalls packs his wife and children into a wagon and drives away from a life he finds over-crowded and claustrophobic. He sets out to find open space and seeks a place where he can live the life he wants to live. If only we were all so brave.
He finds his spot,
‘I tell you, Caroline, there’s everything we want here. We can live like kings’.
parks the wagon and settles in.
Much of the warmth of the book comes from Laura’s pride in the way her father provides for and protects his family. He builds a house and a stable, he digs a well, he hunts for food, he wards off wolves and fire and in his spare time he makes a rocking-chair. Charles Ingalls is a proper hero.
Poor Mrs Ingalls is a bit hard done by. This smiling, uncomplaining, resourceful woman goes almost unnoticed. I wish her heroic efforts had been recorded in more detail. Laura describes at great length how her father hung a door with no nails or hinges but has no interest at all in how her mother turned the house into a home on the prairie.
Small Girl took this book to heart. I think this might be the first time she has really identified with a character in a book. Laura doesn’t always want to do what she’s told and she whines a bit and stomps her foot now and then.
The upshot is that, when Small Girl looks askance at her carrots, I only have to raise an eyebrow and say, ‘Oh my, what would Mrs Ingalls think?’ to find the plate is cleaned.
She can’t possibly have understood every word. I’m not sure myself what is meant by a bluff or a creek-bottom and the construction of the windlass for the well left me mighty confused.
It really didn’t matter. We huddled side-by-side, in bed, in a deck-chair, in a blanket fort, and ventured forth together into a whole new world.