Fifteen-year-old Laura lives apart from her family for the first time, teaching school in a claim shanty twelve miles from home. She is very homesick, but keeps at it so that she can help pay for her sister Mary’s tuition at the college for the blind. During school vacations Laura has fun with her singing lessons, going on sleigh rides, and best of all, helping Almanzo Wilder drive his new buggy. Friendship soon turns to love for Laura and Almanzo in the romantic conclusion of this Little House book.
I started reading the Little House books in kindergarten, and loved the glimpse into a different time in Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie. By the time I made it to this book, I was in fourth or fifth grade and loved reading about Laura teaching school, living away from home, and falling in love. As I got older, this was my favorite book in the series, and I still love the way it illustrates this particular time of life as wonderful and hard and bittersweet and joyful. It might not appeal to younger elementary school readers, but the content is completely G-rated and accessible for middle elementary school through middle school readers.
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867–1957) was born in a log cabin in the Wisconsin woods. With her family, she pioneered throughout America’s heartland during the 1870s and 1880s, finally settling in Dakota Territory. She married Almanzo Wilder in 1885; their only daughter, Rose, was born the following year. The Wilders moved to Rocky Ridge Farm at Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894, where they established a permanent home. After years of farming, Laura wrote the first of her beloved Little House books in 1932. The nine Little House books are international classics. Her writings live on into the twenty-first century as America’s quintessential pioneer story.
Garth Williams (1912–1996) was known for his realistic yet highly expressive animal characters. He brought to life some of the best-loved children’s books of the twentieth century, including Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series and E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Williams illustrated many timeless Golden Books, including Baby Farm Animals, Mister Dog, and The Friendly Book.