My mother read this book to me at least once when I was young, 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) survive the winter, basically snowed in and praying for the train with supplies to arrive, (which never happens until spring). In the meantime, 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.
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 savvy, 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.
Review by Eli Evans
Formerly home educated and now father of five, Eli loves discovering amazing books, new and old. The owner and manager of Exodus since 1998, his focus is on offering thoughtful and well-written books that inspire the imagination and promote creativity and diligence while living for God. Read more of his reviews here
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