Used books may have the older gingham cover.
A blizzard is moments away . . . the first terrible storm comes to the barren prairie in October. Then it snows almost without stopping until April. Snow has reached the rooftops, and no trains can get through with food or coal. The people of De Smet are starving, including the Ingalls family, who wonder how they're going to make it through this terrible winter. It is young Almanzo Wilder who finally understands what needs to be done. He must save the town, even if it means risking his own life.
I was read this book at least once as a young boy, and growing up I must have read it again another three or four times. At nearly age thirty, I had the urge to read it again and was reminded why I liked it so much.
The book's basic plot is monotonous. The Ingalls family (and others in their small town of De Smet) struggle to survive the winter, completely snowed in and praying for the train with supplies to arrive, (which never happens until spring). In the meantime, they nearly starve as they use up their food and coal, and end up grinding wheat in a coffee grinder to make small loaves of bread, twisting hay into sticks for burning, and generally living a very dull life. But the monotony helps to tell a story of much more depth and tension.
It's a story of sacrifice, of determination, of resolve. As a boy, I always identified with Laura, but now that I'm grown, I really identified with "Pa." Seeing him work so hard at harvesting hay, struggling through driving snow to provide for his family, bloodying his hands to make the hay sticks, and yet still trying very hard to be optimistic and encouraging to everyone makes for a wonderful role model.
Indeed, nearly all the major characters in this story are good role models. Ma is very patient and hard working. Laura and her older sister Mary do their best to be helpful and obedient. Almanzo, in a sense the hero of the story, is saavy, knowing he wants to "invest" his wheat for a crop the next year, but he is also able to understand that he must help people who would otherwise starve. He sacrifices some of his grain to help the Ingalls family, remains friendly and hospitable, and then risks his life to find enough wheat to feed the town until the train can arrive.
In this story you have drama, moralizing (without being preachy), heroics, a taste of pioneer economics, some laughter, and plenty of love. A memorable book, worthy of the Newbery Honor award it received in 1941.
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