Sunday, September 11, 2011

Little House on the Prairie

This summer while spending a month with my sister near Brookings, South Dakota, I had a chance to visit with friends and family in Neuhof, Minnesota.  It so happened that going to Neuhof, as we got closer, I noticed signs that had peculiarly familiar names.

First came a sign announcing Plum Creek...  
when Walnut Grove came next I realized that we were in Laura Ingalls Wilder territory.
Plum Creek Park

I never realized that though the books were historical fiction, there would actually be real places mentioned in the books that are still functioning today.  The Wilder family lived 'on the banks of Plum Creek' when Laura was a child.

The area boasts a replica of the sod hut the family spent a winter in.

  I so would have loved to see it!
The nearest town, Walnut Grove, though the name of the town was not mentioned in the book, was where the family eventually moved to for a few years.  It  houses a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum.  (It is also the site where the TV series on the books was set.)

  I merely got a glimpse of the creek and never even stopped in the town of Walnut Grove.  I hope I can someday go back and visit and explore the area.

Now what brought me to write about this?  Going through the area sparked my interest on 'The Little House' era again.  I found a book this summer called 'A Little House Reader'.  It is a collection of writings by Laura (and her family, I find)  written long before Laura wrote her well-known series when she was well in her sixties. 

Her father writes about taking a homestead near Brookings!  Carrie writes about Pa working with the railroad, grading from Brookings to De Smet!  The very same area I travelled in!  I am looking forward to finishing the book which includes journal entries, poetry, and articles Laura wrote for magazines and newspapers.
A Little House Reader: A Collection of Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I remembered stumbling upon this blog once.  

The writer, Debbie Reese, of Native American descent, writes about the 'Little House' books and why they should not be used in an elementary classroom.  Check out the website.  Especially read the posts on the 'Little House' books.  I found the posts interesting and eye-opening. 
This one was especially captivating.
I also enjoyed reading the comments that readers leave.

In one blog post she writes about a teacher who read the 'Little House' series to her students every day.

"The reading apparently gets them calmed down after playing outside at recess. She adopts different voices as she reads to the children, using a "snotty" voice for Nellie and a sweet one for Ma. I wonder how she reads "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" (the phrase appears in the book four times)?
I wonder how many Native kids she's read to in those 32 years? She is in Arizona...

How many kids, in these 32 years, heard her say "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

I wonder how the Native kids felt hearing that, and, I wonder what effect it had on the non-Native kids

This is thought provoking.  I too have read the books to my students.   Did I find anything amiss?  I can't remember.  Too often I think,"It's just a book!"  Do I make my students aware of these discrepancies?  What impressions do these stories leave our students with, though unintentionally so?  

What I do know is that I will be reading these current selections with not only a clearer mind to the historical facts, but also a more critical outlook on the 'biases' of the time.  


  1. Very interesting post! I loved the Laura stories! Welcome aboard my blog!

  2. A thought provoking post....we take so much for granted don't we..instead of looking deeper into the text. Thank you for helping me question a little more.