Kressel Housman's Reviews > The Long Winter

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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Dec 28, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: historical-fiction, fiction, classics, little-house
Recommended for: kids 10 and up
Read from October 01, 1975 to January 01, 1976 , read count: 1

Review #1 - The Little House series was so popular in my school in 1975 that after I’d finished Little House on the Prairie, the only book available in my school library was the sixth in the series, The Long Winter. At 400+ pages, it was the longest book I’d ever read, and it took me months. Kids in my class even commented about it. “It’s called The Long Winter because it’s long book.” And that was one of the more neutral comments. Much more typical was, “You’re still reading that?” And from the teacher’s pet: “I finished it in four days.” And so, though I’d been best reader in my class in Manhattan, in my new school in Queens, I acquired a reputation for being a slow reader and therefore, a dumb kid.

What I wish someone had told me back then was that The Long Winter was not meant for a girl of seven. Laura is about thirteen in the book, so the ideal reader is her age or close to it. I’d say the first four books, Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, and On the Banks of Plum Creek, are perfect for kids from grades two through four. Everything from By the Shores of Silver Lake and afterward is for fifth or sixth graders at least.

So I had some pretty painful associations with this book, and I didn’t remember much of it. I remember being struck at how Carrie was no longer “Baby Carrie,” but a kid who spent more time with Laura than Mary, who, of course, had gone blind. I don’t remember my reactions to that at all, though it may be that another fan clued me in on how it happened. I do remember the Wilder boys, and of course, the main theme – the big blizzard that kept everyone stranded for months.

When that kid in my class said, “It’s called The Long Winter because it’s a long book,” I took it as him making fun of my stupidity. Now, I see it differently. Perhaps I don’t remember the details of the plot, but I felt The Long Winter. It was hard, it took months, I couldn’t wait for it to end, and somehow, I got through it.

Review #2 - Okay, update since I wrote the above. I re-read The Long Winter in its entirety over Passover, and much of it out loud to my son. He's a teenager who's perfectly capable of reading to himself, but hey, I'll do anything to connect to him at this rough stage. Anyway, we both loved it. It may just be my favorite Little House book of all. And now that I'm learning about Rose Wilder Lane's hand in the books and her libertarian ideology, I couldn't help but look at the book in that light. I've started a discussion, with quotes, at this link:

Also, I'm not quite sure how I feel about what Almanzo did. I mean, obviously it was heroic, but he got someone else to sell what he wasn't willing to sell himself. It doesn't seem entirely pure. But my husband says that if the guy wouldn't have sold, and then Almanzo refused to sell, then we could judge his actions as wrong. But given the sacrifices he made, one would think that if push came to shove, he would have sold for the sake of the starving community. Any thoughts?
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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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Jane Greensmith I've talked to many LH fans who say this is their favorite in the series. It has always been my least favorite, although it does have some memorable scenes, but overall, like the long winter itself, I find it something to be endured.

I've never doubted that Alamanzo would have sold his wheat to keep the town from starving, and I admired his resolve to do everything he could to keep from getting to that point.

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" You must be a skillful reader, if your teenaged boy will let you read to him! Nice way to spend Passover week. :)
It's been so long long since I read this that I can't remember the situation with Almanzo. Maybe if I work my way through them again I'll have some thoughts to share.

Kressel Housman The Long Winter is TOTALLY worth reading as a mature adult.

Kressel Housman Also, there was a discussion here on GoodReads, "How long do we read aloud to our kids?" I agreed with the answer, "Till the kid tells you to stop."

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I have no doubt it's a worthy adult read. I just need to get through all the others first. I learned quite a bit in my recent re-read of Big Woods. Things that went right past me as a child.

Ramona I think he would have sold it, but he came to the conclusion that the amount he had would not have been enough to keep the town from starving.

Susan This is my favorite in the series, probably because I was 11 or 12 when I started reading them. I was always intrigued by the description of the Wilder boys making of flapjacks with the last of the flour and the brown sugar they put between the layers. I always thought it sounded so delicious. Well, I made some just like them one day, or as close as I could come, and they weren't too great. I think you had to be pretty hungry and knowing that it might be your last meal for a while. :) But, my goodness, did Laura ever make them sound wonderful!

Kressel Housman Dean Butler, who played Almanzo on the TV show, has just come out with two documentaries on Laura's and Almanzo's lives. He's become a big fan of the books.

Philip It's interesting that you mentioned the ages in your review. I just got done reading this to my daughter - she's almost 7. Granted, there's a big difference between having a parent reading it out loud, and reading it alone at 6 or 7.

After we read, we review, and then we read other reviews and talk about them - so that's why we're here.

I agreed with the thought that Almanzo's actions weren't entirely pure. I felt the same way about the mob at Loftus's store too. It's true - he shouldn't have been selling it at such a high price, but I'm not sure that's a justification for the actions of the town. And true it all "worked out" but I wonder about that too. There were several parts like that in this book - stealing from the emigrant car at the end. It definitely humanizes the Ingalls family.

Great reviews. I especially liked the connection between your first reading of The Long Winter and the story itself.

Kressel Housman Philip wrote: "It's interesting that you mentioned the ages in your review. I just got done reading this to my daughter - she's almost 7. Granted, there's a big difference between having a parent reading it out..."

Thanks so much for saying so!

Laura Re-reading the book as an adult I, too, have questioned Almanzo. I remember thinking as a child how heroic he was. The back of my book (an old, worn-out 1971 edition) even says "Almanzo Wilder knew he would have to risk his life to save the town." Really? He was saving his wheat. Would he have given up the wheat if it came to that? Probably. But he's not quite the hero I'd previously made him out to be.

Laura (I still have a crush on Cap Garland, though)

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Hana Maybe this will be my read for this Passover. My mother read it to my sister and I about a gazillion years ago (We must have been about 7 or 8) She made it so real that we froze in our seats! After the winter we've had (are still having?) I'm ready for that moment when the first trains get through.

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Hana Phillip, When I read the book on my own, I must have been a teenager and I was upset by the mob and by what Almanzo had done. I think my mother must have 'redacted' that portion when she read it to us (another advantage of reading aloud to your children)!

Kressel Housman The snow hasn't melted in MA yet, Hana? Around here, the spring has sprung. The deer were feasting on the grass in my backyard yesterday, and this morning, the Canada geese were out doing the same in Westchester.

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Hana Yes, finally. There are still a few snow patches, but today is supposed to be in the 50s and really sunny. Those deer...feasting is right! My sister lives in New Jersey and great herds of them have eaten every shrub on her property.

Kressel Housman Where in NJ? One of my other frum women friends here on Goodreads is in Passaic.

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Hana Rumson--it's near Red Bank and Sandy Hook. Pretty but overrun with deer and no schuls. I used to live there, but I moved to Brookline to be part of a real Jewish community and also because I discovered I'm really a city girl at heart!

Kressel Housman Gosh, I'd buy farmland in the Catskills if I could. That's the Little House influence on my life.

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Hana For me the scent of rain on concrete sidewalks is the smell of spring ;)

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Hana Farming is such hard work--my cousin raises sheep on Whidbey Island near Seattle. This time of year the lambing keeps her up all hours of the night.. Here are two babies in the snow (they often wind up in the kitchen!)


Kressel Housman Awwww!

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