Plum Creek is one of my favorites. As a child, I loved the notion of living in a sod house, loved vicariously playing in the creek, loved the image of Laura frolicking on the roof among prairie flowers while Ma irons below. And yes, while I’ve had some quibbles with Ma, I do give her full credit for moving in with grace after being informed the deal is done.
Laura’s descriptions of the new home are enchanting:
The creek was singing to itself down among the willows, and the soft wind bent the grasses over the top of the bank.
Red and blue and purple and rose-pink and white and striped flowers all had their throats wide open as if they were singing glory to the morning.
The book is full of childhood adventures (and misadventures). And, this is the book that gives us Laura’s nemesis, Nellie Olson.
But not all of the challenges are child-sized. Laura made poignant use of foreshadowing to set readers up for the crop tragedy.
Early on, when Laura laments having cattle instead of horses, Pa promises that they will have horses again one day.
“When, Pa?” she asked him, and he said, “When we raise our first crop of wheat.”
When Ma says living in the dugout makes her feel like a penned animal:
Never mind, Caroline,” Pa said. “We’ll have a good house next year. …And good horses, and a buggy to boot! I’ll take you riding, dressed up in silks! Think, Caroline—this level rich land, not a stone or stump to contended with, and only three miles from a railroad! We can sell every grain of wheat we raise!”
Then Pa buys lumber for a new house (and windows, and a stove) on credit, with a promise to pay when he sells his wheat crop. It’s difficult for repeat readers not to shout, “Don’t do it, Pa! The grasshoppers are coming!”
The enormity of the multi-year disaster the Ingalls family faced when their crop was devoured is hard to absorb.
But as always, faith, hard work, and a determination to make the best of things lead to a happy ending. Ma and Pa demonstrate perseverance to their daughters. It’s one of Wilder’s favorite themes, but understandably so; somehow, crisis after crisis, the Ingalls family did survive.
Is Plum Creek one of your favorites too? What did you like, or dislike? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Note: I am a former curator and love research, but I am not a Laura Ingalls Wilder scholar. For more academic information, see titles by William Anderson, Pamela Smith Hill, John E. Miller, and others. To learn more about the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries, please visit my website.
Next up for discussion: By The Shores Of Silver Lake.