On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is the fourth book in the Little House series of novels, and it’s one of my favourites so far. I thought it was a big step up over both the second and the third books, but I didn’t think it was quite as magical as the first – though to be fair, that’s a pretty high bar.

While Little House on the Prairie featured a not-so-good portrayal of the indigenous people living in the area that the Ingalls moved to, On the Banks of Plum Creek manages to avoid that problem all together. This is about the Ingalls coming to a new area, building a new home, and contending with nature and the elements. It was actually quite similar to the first book in that regard, but perhaps a little more grown up.

One aspect of the book which I’m sure some reader will find particularly unnerving is its focus on a swarm of locusts that infested the area. I’ve known for years that things like this can and do happen, but I’d never really thought too much about how something like that would actually feel. You can tell the author actually lived through this experience, because it’s described in harrowing detail. If you’re afraid of bugs, I suspect this will be a very difficult read.

I also enjoyed all the detail it provided about how they dealt with the snow and extreme colds during in the depths of winter. It’s the kind of thing that helps you to appreciate all of our modern conveniences, and which highlights how really inhospitable the world can be. They were living in something called a dugout during the period of their lives detailed in this book – I’d never even really heard of this before, but it was fascinating to me.

Speaking of the winter, this book contains a really beautiful chapter about Christmas. They all go to the church for a Christmas service and, gosh, it captured the spirit of the festive season perfectly. It was one of the cosiest, most heart-warming things I’ve ever read and easily my favourite part of the book. I think I’d go so far as to say that I think that chapter is the best thing Laura Ingalls Wilder ever wrote (or, at least, of what I’ve read by her so far).

Essentially, I think what I liked about this was that it was a return to the series roots – it’s about a pioneer family out braving the wilderness and trying to survive. The first book was that too, but reading it was a very different experience, due to it being through more of a child’s perspective. The second was about the her husband’s rougher time growing up, and lacked the element of nostalgia present in the others (as she never lived through it herself), and the politics of the third didn’t age so well. This book is why I love Little House, and I hope to see more like this in the later books.

Rating: 8.5/10

Buy it here.

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