My seven-year-old daughter and I have recently finished reading four books. Somehow we ended up reading all of them at the same time. We started reading a chapter of each one every night, making bedtime extra long and completely enjoyable. Here are the four books.
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This is the third installment of the Little House on the Prairie Series, not counting Farmer Boy, which is technically the second book to be published but not a continuation of the same story. I wanted to reread this one with my daughter because I remember it vividly from my own childhood. I spent each night with it propped on my stomach in bed, imagining that I too ran barefoot along the banks of the little creek and lived in a dugout house. It all seemed so exciting.
My daughter Olivia enjoyed the book too. There were a few heartwarming moments, such as the Christmas celebration at the church where Laura sees a Christmas tree for the first time and receives a little fur cape and muff, equal to Nellie’s. I shed a few tears during this scene. Olivia didn’t quite understand why I was sobbing quietly weeping, but she did find satisfaction in Laura’s having finally showed Nellie up. The book has its harrowing moments too, such as when the grasshoppers come and eat all of their wheat. This actually happened in the American Midwest, and Mrs. Wilder lived through it as a child. Her account is from a child’s perspective but still as frightfully real and terrible as it would be from an adult’s perspective, maybe even more so.
I highly recommend any book in the Little House on the Prairie series. We are now onto Farmer Boy, as Olivia has decided that she needs a break from Mary, Laura, Pa, and Ma. I agree. She has taken to calling Mike “Pa” and me “Ma.”
We are beginning to sound as fanatical about the Ingalls family as Wendy McClure, the author of The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. This is a delightful, although somewhat embarrassing, account of a grown woman’s attempts to reread, remake, and revisit everything Little House on the Prairie. Since reading it and the Little House books, I have resolved to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri, the next time I visit my dad, who lives in Missouri.
The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
The second book we recently finished is The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. This is the second book in the series, and both are fun and quick reads. They follow Clementine’s antics, which remind me an awful lot of my favorite children’s book character Ramona Quimby created by the beloved Beverly Cleary. The Clementine books are shorter, usually involve a problem that this tom-boy must solve, and have laugh-out-loud moments of insanity. Olivia adores Clementine, but keeps forgetting that she is actually a girl. And the most entertaining part, to me at least, is Clementine’s inability to call her brother by his proper name. In fact, I don’t know what his real name is. She calls him Broccoli, String Bean, and Turnip. She justifies this because her name is a fruit name; therefore, her brother should suffer like her and have a vegetable name. The other great part is Clementine’s foil, Margaret. She’s the prissy, perfect, know-it-all girl who is slightly older than Clementine and often is the source of Clementine’s dilemmas.
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
The third book we read is My Father’s Dragon. This is an old classic by Ruth Stiles Gannett. The story is simple and sweet, but adventuresome and exciting. The narrator tells the story about her father’s quest to save a baby dragon chained to Wild Island by the ferocious animals there. The father, as a little boy, must pass through many obstacles and wild-animal encounters before he can save the dragon. He defeats each animal not with violence, but with smarts. Olivia is rereading this one on her own because she liked it so much.
Betsy-Tacy by Maude Hart Lovelace
The fourth book we read was Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. This is a sweet telling of two girls, Betsy and Tacy, who become best friends and play imaginative games around their neighborhood. The publication date is 1940, and the book gives a nice glimpse into the past, similar to the Little House on the Prairie books. Also similar is the fact that the author’s childhood home is now a museum in Mankato, Minnesota.
However, the book is really written for younger children than the Laura audience. Betsy and Tacy and five and have bossy older sisters who are seven. The two help each other through difficulties, such as the death of Tacy’s baby sister and fears on the first day of school, but they also make a new friend by the end of the book through their adventuresome play. It’s a heartwarming book and the first in a series, so we may need to find out what else Mrs. Lovelace has written. I know there are societies in her memory and that she based the books off of her own childhood experiences, something I am always a sucker for since sitting at my grandmother’s knee and finding her own childhood escapades to be captivating.
What do you read with your children?