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By the Shores of Silver Lake
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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In this book, the surprising thing is how matter-of-factly Mary's blindness is treated. There is no sorrow or concern about it, it is just plainly stated that now, after suffering from scarlet fever, she is blind. Laura acts as her "eyes", describing the scenery as they move once again across the country to the Dakota Territories to follow Pa Ingalls and his dream of getting a homestead. Among other things, Laura is resigned to becoming a teacher in Mary's stead. She doesn't want to, since she has no inclination towards that profession, but accepts that she must. There is also excitement when baby Grace gets lost in the fields.
These are all starting to merge a bit. Laura, forever trying to get out of wearing her bonnet and wanting to be out on the prairie. Pa, always on with some new place to live that will be the right place this time.
What actually stands out about this one?
A surprising amount happens between the end of the last book and the start of this one. Everyone has had scarlet fever. Mary has gone blind! And an entire new baby has turned up mostly unremarked on.
There are a lot more people in this book. Some of them are even characters from previous books, managing to cross paths with the Ingalls again.
They go on a train! And Pa gets work helping out with the railroad! It felt like such an anachronism, after all the minimalist wilderness life, to have a train, and pay disputes, but I guess it isn’t, and all these things just live together.
Their luck hasn’t really changed. Pa just manages to get their claim in because his friend distracts someone into a fist fight. They get buried in snow while they sleep one night, Pa nearly gets lynched by an angry mob of railway workers, who don’t like being paid two weeks in arrears. Their final claim turns out to be full of mosquitos (well, it is next to a swamp.)
The description of the giant wolf in the moonlight, and the chapter about building the railway with everyone working like a machine are both stunningly good.
I’m re-reading this series as a bedtime read aloud with my son. I didn’t remember this book very well and it wasn’t my favorite. But I still enjoyed the descriptions of family life especially once the railroad crews had left. I find it so interesting how the narration is more grownup as Laura grows up through the books.
Listened to the audiobook performed by Cherry Jones. She was great, doing voices of all the characters and even singing in their voices. The book gave very interesting information and details about the cultivation of Dakota Territory: wild buffaloes no longer around, people building the railroad (and stealing horses from one another, and fighting over terms of payment), filing homestead claims (and coming out to the claim in the middle of winter, with no plan on where to live or eat on the way), settling on the claims (and being wary of people who come to your claim and shoot you to death, in order to snatch your claim)....Makes me want to visit De Smet and see the place!
Belongs to Series
Little House Novels, Chronological Order (book 20)
Belongs to Publisher Series
Puffin Story Books (303)
Vintage Scholastic (TX4446)
Is contained in
La petite maison de la prairie : Coffret 3 volumes : Tome 1, La petite maison de la prairie ; Tome 2, Au bord du ruisseau ; Tome 3, Sur les rives du lac by Laura Ingalls Wilder
By the Shores of Silver Lake/Farmer Boy/The First Four Years/Little House in the Big Woods/Little Town on the Prairie/The Long Winter/On the Banks of Plum Creek/These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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Wikipedia in English (1)
Ma and the girls follow Pa west by train where they make their home at a rough railroad camp and plan for their own homestead.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.52Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1900-1944
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