Monday, February 28, 2011

Farmer Boy - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Summary:  Ten years in the future, Laura Ingalls will marry Almanzo in the town of De Smet, South Dakota.  But now, Almanzo is miles away, growing up with his brother and sisters on his father's farm in New York.

Almanzo's chores get him up at dawn and keep him working till dinner -- summer and winter.  But it is fun, and it builds character.  And was there ever a boy who loved horses more?  Was there ever a boy with a bigger appetite?  (Summary from book - Image from )

My Review: Farmer Boy is the fourth book in the Little House Series and the only one that focuses on Laura’s future husband, Almanzo Wilder, as a young boy. Almanzo’s life on his family farm in New York isn’t easy, but he wants nothing more than to be a farmer, eat his weight in his mother’s delicious cooking, and, of course, help train the new colts. His family maintains a substantial farm and is far wealthier than the Ingalls family could ever hope to be. As a boy, his chores vastly differ from the Ingalls’ girls, and he spends his days helping his father prepare the fields, plant and harvest crops, shear sheep, bale hay, cut logs for firewood, and haul ice from the lake to the icehouse. It was interesting to note the disparities between the Wilder and Ingalls families. The difference in financial circumstances and the addition of the male point of view allowed my girls to see a different side of farming life in the late 1800s, and both they and I enjoyed the change in perspective.

Once again, this book offered many opportunities to discuss important life lessons with my girls. On one occasion, Almanzo’s father taught him how to spend his money wisely, and give up something good for something that required hard work, but was even better. It was a perfect way to start a conversation with my children about saving for things that are important, working hard, making smart financial decisions.

My only complaint about this book was that when Almanzo and his father were working on a project, the story morphed into an exceptionally detailed instruction manual on how to make that particular item. The only reason I think anyone would find this interesting would be if they actually wanted to make the item in question. Personally, I have no intention of ever making a bobsled. These sections were lengthy and it was difficult for my children to follow along and imagine the process. I could see my girls checking out of the story in those moments and to be honest I had a hard time not just skipping over it. Thankfully, these sections didn’t happen too often and my girls found more than enough stories to keep them occupied. They loved the town’s Independence Day celebration, the “blacking” incident, and stared at me, wide-eyed, when I read about the time Mother and Father left the children by themselves for a week while they went to visit relatives.

Overall, I’m glad that I read the book for the background about the Wilder family and the character depth it gave to Laura’s future husband. I would recommend this book to anyone reading the series, but don’t think that it is a must-read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is an illustration of a naked boy as he gets into a washtub. It's a side-view, so you don’t see anything. It was no big deal unless your girls get the giggles, which mine did. There is also a story about a teacher who whips naughty children with a bullwhip that, I promise, sounds far worse than it actually is.

Sum it up: An interesting, but not essential, addition to the Little House series.

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