Manybooks's Reviews > Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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bookshelves: book-reviews, childrens-history-nonfiction, childrens-literature, historical-fiction, farming, first-nations-native-american-metis, immigration-moving
Read 5 times. Last read April 14, 2017 to April 15, 2017.

This is not really a review of the general contents and themes of Little House on the Prairie, but more my personal attitudes towards the fact that this book has been (and like so many others) repeatedly challenged and even at times banned/censored (mostly due to the way Native Americans are depicted and the attitudes shown towards them).

There are definite issues with Little House on the Prairie, and especially the attitudes towards Native Americans are problematic to say the least. However, attitudes towards Native Americans in the 19th century were often very much akin to those shown in the book, and the claim that the "only good Indian is a dead Indian" was unfortunately common amongst many settlers (like the Scotts, who I think, uttered these words). Those who would challenge these books and attempt to have them banned are thus not only being censorious, but even worse, are attempting to erase the unfortunate truth that Native Americans were often seen in this way. Little House on the Prairie would, in my opinion, be a good starting point for discussions, although I do realise the book could also be used and likely has been used by those against Native Americans to bolster and justify their own prejudices (however, this can be and has been the case with many, if not most controversial books, and will likely remain thus).

Frankly, while I have more than a bit of trouble with the way Native Americans are depicted and the attitudes shown towards them (I especially find the often glowing descriptions of Caroline Ingalls a bit hard to stomach, as she is really quite the stereotyper, much more so than Charles Ingalls, although not on the same level as the Scotts), I do very much appreciate the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder has not tried pretend that attitudes towards Native Americans were different and more positive (if she had, for example, written stories about the Ingalls family becoming close to and good friends with their Native American neighbours, although this might feel more acceptable to our modern sensibilities, it also would be, for the most part, woefully and perhaps even dangerously anachronistic).

And finally, one must realise that while Little House on the Prairie is considered historical fiction, it was also written at a time when negative impressions of or at the very least patronising and Euro-centric attitudes to Native Americans were still very much not only acceptable, but common. The book describes the past, but is also of its time, and should be read, appreciated and approached as such.

I also wonder, whether those individuals who believe that Little House on the Prairie should be banned and/or censored consider themselves to be educated, to be socially active, to be fighting against bigotry and the like (and the answer would probably be a resounding "yes" for most). However, if one strives to ban or censor books, one is behahving (and no matter for what reason one attempts to ban or censor a book) the same or at least in a similar manner as that against which one is fighting. Education, understanding, solidarity will never be reached, nor will the battle against bigotry ever be won by using similarly problematic (and draconian) means, but through thoughtful discussion and debate (in my opinion, banning books, no matter for what purpose, is and always will be an act of bigotry, an act of dictatorial over-reaching, an act that destroys freedom and only creates more strife).
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Reading Progress

October 9, 1985 – Started Reading
October 10, 1985 – Finished Reading
April 6, 1988 – Started Reading
April 7, 1988 – Finished Reading
January 18, 2015 – Shelved
January 18, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
January 18, 2015 – Shelved as: book-reviews
January 18, 2015 – Shelved as: childrens-literature
January 18, 2015 – Shelved as: childrens-history-nonfiction
January 20, 2015 – Started Reading
January 21, 2015 – Finished Reading
October 27, 2015 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
November 4, 2016 – Started Reading
November 5, 2016 – Finished Reading
April 14, 2017 – Started Reading
April 15, 2017 – Shelved as: farming
April 15, 2017 – Shelved as: first-nations-native-american-metis
April 15, 2017 – Shelved as: immigration-moving
April 15, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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message 1: by Lilo (new)

Lilo I agree with what you are saying. History is history the way it is, and to ban books that are not conform with our advanced way to see things is, certainly, not the solution.

There is, of course, a problem with children's books. One does not want to install racism of any kind into children's minds. Here, I would suggest to add a child-suitable foreword to such books, pointing out the difference between of how, for instance, native Americans were viewed then and now.

I would, however, NOT vilify ALL book banning. Hate-mongering books as well as books falsifying history and/or telling clear lies (be they written for children or adults) should be banned or, at least, be only obtainable for historians or students of history or political science.

As you know, there was this problem when the copyright for Hitler's "Mein Kampf" (so far, held by the Bavarian government) ran out. After lots of controversy, a rather wise solution was found; that is, a new edition wit tons of fact-correcting footnotes was published and made available to the public. (The original, without fact-correcting footnotes had, unfortunately, been available on the internet all along.)


Manybooks Lilo wrote: "I agree with what you are saying. History is history the way it is, and to ban books that are not conform with our advanced way to see things is, certainly, not the solution.

There is, of course, ..."


It is a delicate balancing act to be sure. On the one hand though, children's books, or any books that for instance tried to show that Native Americans and settlers were generally friends with one another (and that there were no massacres etc.) would also be falsifying history or at least showing a not true utopian view of the past.

I like the fact that the new edition of Mein Kampf has these footnotes and is basically a critical edition. One issue with books like Mein Kampf is the fact that even when books are legitimately banned, their distribution is controlled or even if only certain versions are made available, there is often (especially now) a thriving underground market and demand that is very hard to monitor and control.


message 3: by Lilo (last edited Feb 06, 2017 11:16AM) (new)

Lilo P.S. While I grew up in Germany, during WWII (and the years following), children's books (as most other goods, as well) were very difficult to obtain. Therefore, I had only a very small number of books. One of them was "Zehn kleine Negerlein (Ten Little Negroes)", which my father had somehow been able to obtain. By today's standards, this book would probably be considered racist (not expressing any empathy for the demise of these little negroes, one after the other). However, this book, definitely, did not poison my mind or make me a racist. Neither did the described cruelties included in the German classic "Der Struwwelpeter" cause me any psychiatric damage or send me to a shrink.

And on the other hand: There are tons of children's books out that encourage love for animals. Do these books cause their readers to become vegetarians? They don't. I do not know a single person who became a vegetarian because of reading an animal-love encouraging children's book.


Manybooks Lilo wrote: "P.S. While I grew up in Germany, during WWII (and the years following), children's books (as most other goods, as well) were very difficult to obtain. Therefore, I had only a very small number of b..."

I know what you are saying and I agree.


message 5: by Lilo (last edited Feb 06, 2017 11:34AM) (new)

Lilo Manybooks wrote: "Lilo wrote: "I agree with what you are saying. History is history the way it is, and to ban books that are not conform with our advanced way to see things is, certainly, not the solution.

There is..."


Our comments have crossed.

You are right, it is a balancing act. And you are also right about that books (for children or adults) that show an utopian view of the past are also falsifying history.

IMO, authorities should not meddle with books as long as the contents are not likely to cause significant damage in readers' minds. This does not mean that a review should not smash a book that is likely to cause even minor damage. And shaming someone who reads or recommends the reading of a book that is falsifying history or trivializing a mass murderer (such as Hitler) is NOT the same as banning such book.

I have written a smashing review of the book "Er ist wieder da" (title of the English version: "Look Who's Back") and shamed those who support the author and publishers of this book by purchasing it. I stand by this review.--It turned out that many commentators to this review could not differentiate between telling people not to buy a book and banning or burning a book.


Manybooks Lilo wrote: "Manybooks wrote: "Lilo wrote: "I agree with what you are saying. History is history the way it is, and to ban books that are not conform with our advanced way to see things is, certainly, not the s..."

There is a huge difference between despising a book and saying that one wishes a book (like Er its Wieder Da) should never have been published and actually advocating a book be officially banned or censored.


message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan I know a few children who have gone vegetarian (their families were not) because of reading children's books, and I think I was greatly shaped by the books I read when I was young. Pre-women's liberation days, for instance.

Even with all that, I don't believe in censoring books or altering them to fit modern audiences. I do like annotated editions and discussions, especially adults with children reading vintage children's booiks. Kids are smart though and recognize when something is not the norm or not acceptable.


Manybooks Lisa wrote: "I know a few children who have gone vegetarian (their families were not) because of reading children's books, and I think I was greatly shaped by the books I read when I was young. Pre-women's libe..."

We often do not give children nearly enough credit, and this seems to be getting worse not better, in so far that many of today's parents are much more into artificially shielding their children.


message 9: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan I agree, Gundula.


message 10: by Lilo (new)

Lilo Manybooks wrote: "Lilo wrote: "Manybooks wrote: "Lilo wrote: "I agree with what you are saying. History is history the way it is, and to ban books that are not conform with our advanced way to see things is, certain..."

This is true, but many people don't realize this.


message 11: by Lilo (new)

Lilo Lisa wrote: "I know a few children who have gone vegetarian (their families were not) because of reading children's books, and I think I was greatly shaped by the books I read when I was young. Pre-women's libe..."

I am glad to hear that SOME children have gone vegetarian because of reading children's books. I wish I were one of them. I still struggle with vegetarianism (for long periods of time, I win, for long periods of time I lose), yet this was not induced by children's books but rather by the animals I had personal contact with (pets, almost-pet chickens, neighbors' cows, etc.).


message 12: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan That makes sense, Lilo, although as you know most farm families eat animals so close contact with and getting to know animals usually doesn't make people go vegetarian either.


message 13: by Lilo (new)

Lilo Lisa wrote: "That makes sense, Lilo, although as you know most farm families eat animals so close contact with and getting to know animals usually doesn't make people go vegetarian either."

I know two persons who grew up on a farm and became vegetarian or even vegan because they were traumatized having watched animals being slaughtered. One was a sales person in a health food store we frequented. (He is now self-employed selling vitamins and supplements.) The other is my husband who would be vegan if I did not constantly urge him to eat eggs (from our own chickens) and occasionally fish. (My husband is highly allergic to wheat and also tested positive to a number of other foods. This leaves him with potatoes, barley, oats, most beans, greens, and not much more. Mind you, people have survived on less, but it hurts me to see him on such a meager and protein-low diet.)

I try to eat as little meat as possible. (I no longer eat chicken because I could no longer look our beloved chickens in the eyes if I did. Besides, to sacrifice a life for only a couple of meals seems even less justified than sacrificing the life of a big animal, such as a cow, that feeds a family for a year. And I hardly ever eat pork because pigs are genetically so similar to humans.)

Btw, when Stefan Zweig was living with his wife in Vermont, in exile, they were forced to farm. They had the following rule: Once an animal was given a name, it was considered a pet and not to be slaughtered.


message 14: by Manybooks (last edited Feb 13, 2017 01:42PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Manybooks Lilo wrote: "Lisa wrote: "That makes sense, Lilo, although as you know most farm families eat animals so close contact with and getting to know animals usually doesn't make people go vegetarian either."

I know..."


I met someone at university who literally was allergic to wheat, rye, beans (and other legumes), soy products and all vegetables except for carrots. She was also a vegetarian at the time her allergies were diagnosed so I do wonder what became of her.


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