I have to admit that there have been a couple of books that I have dreaded having to read on the Top 100 Chapter Books list and one of them was definitely Little House on the Prairie (1935) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I didn’t want to read this series as a kid, I think because I grew up in Hawaii and Southern California and so the prairie just seemed like an awful, drab place, so far away from anything I had ever known. My ideal survivalist fantasy was the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse (in the Disney film), out on a lovely island with tropical birds and monkeys and a baby elephant that I could befriend. I love the idea of finding your place in an environment rather than forcing it to conform to what you think it should be.
So, I wasn’t very happy when I read Little House in the Big Woods a couple of years ago because of the way that the Ingalls family and others claimed dominion over all the animals (and killed tons of them), the way that they treated their children, and the numerous platitudes about how “good” children should act. Well, I ran into these problems again with this one but, far worse, it added in some horrifying views on the native inhabitants of the prairie. Not only did the family move into Indian Territory without permission, but they actually stated that they were just biding their time until the US Government came and forced the natives out. The mother and the neighbor lady said repellant things about these people that they had never met and the words “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” were used, much to my horror. Once Laura even threw a tantrum because her father wouldn’t take a young native baby from its mother for her to have even though she wanted it. Yes, to her and her family these natives barely even qualified as people sometimes. It was disgusting and a total low point in the history of our country but is totally passed off as normal in this book. I could see having children read it if you were going to specifically have a discussion with them about discrimination and displacement and racism but I can’t see handing it to them as a light, fun read. Honestly, I am having a very hard time knowing that anyone views this as a favorite book. With the rampant racism that is resurfacing both in America and abroad, I would rather find books for my child that celebrate diversity or at least honestly discuss why white settlers and colonists, explorers and pilgrims, were not always on the right side of history.
Anyway, you can probably figure out that I can’t recommend this book except as a guided discussion read. Between Laura being called “greedy” for taking a single lick of her Christmas peppermint stick (which makes NO sense since the author is, essentially, writing about herself!) to the constant refrains of “children should not speak unless spoken to”, etc., I think this book is better left in the past with its outdated views.
Whew! Sorry for skipping my usual format but this book just made me so angry as I was reading it. Hopefully Ramona and Her Father is a pleasant, light read. I honestly don’t remember anything about it though I’m sure I read it as a kid!