Kellie's Reviews > Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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Feb 05, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: children, classics, read-aloud, bibliotherapy, western
Read in February, 2011

I give this book five stars with a huge caveat - it should not be read by a child without adult guidance and discussion, and is probably most appropriate for children ages 8 and up. There is a lot of blatant racism in this story, as well as a lot of more subtle language problems. It is clear to me that Laura, writing as an adult, understood the problems with what her family was doing at the time - moving into Indian Territory - and that she to some extent understood the perspective of the Indians. But she was also a product of her times and that is reflected in her language. All of that being said, this book has been a tremendous tool in our family to discuss racism. Laura questions her parents a lot in a way that makes sense to kids, "Why do we live in Indian Territory if you don't like Indians?...Why does the government keep making the Indians move? Won't that make them angry?"

The Native Americans in this book behave in a way that does not make sense to Laura and her family which led to a lot of discussion in our house about cultural conventions and cultural differences. For example, many of the Indians simply walked right into the Ingalls' home. Some Indians were also rude and clearly trying to be intimidating. Others were kind in spite of all the problems with the Ingalls living there. We talked about how that was how it is with people everywhere. Ma is blatantly prejudiced against Indians. Pa makes several comments that make me cringe, but overall he had a pretty progressive view for the time. All of these were big catalysts for discussion when we read the book aloud.

I did do some editing while I was reading. This was our evening read-aloud which my four and a half year old was often present for. She wasn't really old enough to get all of this, and I don't recommend this book for her age group. I did some editing for her and my sensitive seven-year-old (the Ingalls have a neighbor who likes to say, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" and that was just too much for them). My nine-year-old and I had a lot of great discussions about this book (sometimes after the other two went to bed) and I think she really gets it. I think it was very eye-opening to her to see characters she likes and is attached to - like Caroline - have such blatant flaws. I also think it was eye-opening to her herself - I have heard a few comments and questions from her about Native Americans that had disturbed me, and after reading this she was clearly outraged on their behalf and has become interested in learning more about Native American history and culture.

To me, this is like the elementary school Huck Finn.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Jacqueline That's a perfect review of this book. I was thinking the same things, that it is an good book but it needs to be balanced with discussion for children. My 6 year old niece is coming over and I think I'll be reading some of the fairly tame chapters and save the ones dealing about cultural conflict for when she is older. (With her mom's permission, of course.)


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