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Prairie Songs (A Harper Trophy Book) Paperback – September 25, 1987

3.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A girl's abiding love for her Nebraska home is shaken with the arrival of a frail young city woman who cannot endure the harsh pioneer life. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8 The Nebraska prairie was a barren place that offered beauty and peace to some, loneliness and madness to others. Prairie Songs provides a beautifully written insight into this contrast. Louisa and her shy brother Lester live quite contentedly with their parents when the new doctor arrives with his beautiful and fragile pregnant wife, Emmeline. All work to help the new couple adjust to harsh weather, buffalo chips, soddies and Indians; Emmeline agrees to teach the children some reading. After a terrible fright, she goes into premature labor; her baby is stillborn, and Emmeline is reduced to madness. The children notice Emmeline's loneliness and growing madness with sadness, but they accept prairie life for what it is. Conrad artfully deals with all the harsh facts in this fast-paced novel which leaves readers with a real feeling for the difficulties of pioneer life. Children may well appreciate modern medicine and communication, not to mention suburbia, after reading this poignant story. Dorcas Hand, Episcopal High School, Bellaire, Tex.

Copyright 1985 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: A Harper Trophy Book
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (September 25, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064402061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064402064
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,494,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book entitled, Prairie Songs, was written by Pam Conrad. In this piece of literature, a city couple moves from New York to the Nebraska prairie. Mr. and Mrs. Dr. Berryman are a newly married couple who come to live on the Nebraska prairie, near Louisa and her family. Mrs. Berryman is not used to hard life, and she comes dressed in magnificent clothes. She encounters hard problems, but Louisa and her family help her with the farming, ect.
Louisa longs to look at Mrs. Berryman's collection of books, but doesn't get much of a chance, until she begins taking lessons from Mrs. Berryman. In the summer, Mrs. Berryman loses her newborn child and goes into a period of shock. One day during the middle of winter, two Indians come to the Berryman's house, and send Mrs. Berryman fleeing out into the snow. Since her husband is away, at a train wreck, she freezes out in the snow. Louisa ends up helping her mother to get the frozen neighbor into the house so the animals outside won't eat her body.
This book is a really good book to read, and I enjoyed it very much. I think that anyone who likes historical fiction/western novels, should read this piece of literature. Happy reading!!!
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A Kid's Review on April 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Prairie Songs is written by Pam Conrad and illustrated by Darryl S. Zudeck. It was a 1985 Golden Kite Honor Book, and Best Books For Young Adults (ALA). It was also a 1986 IRA Children's Book Award Winner. It is about a family who lived in Nebraska and some of the hardships and joys that they experienced. New neighbors come into their ordinary prairie lives and they see many changes. Now they must teach the New York family of two the ways of the prairie. Mrs. Berryman is not used to having Indians just sneaking into her house and is terribly frightened but Louisa and her mother Clara help Mrs. Berryman to overcome her fear. Because she has many books, Mrs. Berryman agreed to give Louisa and her shy younger brother Lester reading lessons. When a man by the name of Solomon Butcher stopped by Louisa's house, he asked to take a picture of her family. Louisa was very anxious to see the picture but was told that it must be developed first and she could see it at the forth of July celebration. After Mrs. Berryman's baby died, she becomes full of despair, but the reading lessons, which Mrs. Berryman is teaching, seemed to help her in the tough life on the prairie. When Mr. Berryman must go along with Louisa's father J.T. and another neighbor Mr. Whitfield to help attend to a terrible train wreck, Mrs. Berryman must be left alone for a few days. During that time two Indians paid Mrs. Berryman and Louisa and her family a visit. This book takes some surprising turns and keeps you interested until the final page. I liked this book because I thought that it had a very good story line and it told me what life was like back then on the prairie.
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Format: Paperback
From an adult, personal standpoint, and from a person who loves reading about westward expansion and prairie life, I found this to be quite a good read. Conrad's descriptions and use of various figurative language is indeed a plus. Conrad's knowledge of life on the prairie during this time period is evident. The accuracy of the historical aspects of the time is impressive.
The problem I have with the book, eventhough it received the Children's Book Award in 1986, is that the theme of the book is not one which elementary school children can process. Having taught fourth and fifth grade students most of the thirty-five years of my teaching career, I can declare of a certainty that this is not a book that these students can appreciate. Boys of this age, as well as most middle schoolers, would find the scene with Paulie shooting at his mother very funny! It is anything but! It is also not realistic for children and parents of this time period to have the back and forth banter that this family has.
Pregnancy and childbirth were generally not shared with children of the time period.
Many of my students would be quite uncomfortable if this book were read as a trade book or as a supplement to the language curriculum.
As an adult, I found the book both touching and disturbing in many aspects.
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Format: Paperback
As a teacher and a parent I was very disappointed that this book was chosen for my gifted 4th grader to read. While Little House on the Prairie may be too romantic for some, this book goes to the other extreme. It contains a child pulling a gun on their parent, a woman having a mental breakdown, a stillbirth, and a child being asked to carry a frozen body. Life on the prairie was hard, but there must be better stories out there for young readers. I would suggest to teachers to have students read Little House on the Prairie and then compare it to what we know about the Ingall's real lives. There is a lot of material available for that discussion.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this story about Louisa and her family, who lived in a soddy on the open prairie. It is a poignant tale and I like Conrad's voice and style of writing - very down-to-earth with beautiful descriptions. I could easily visualize the scenery and the characters. It is a bit mature for young readers, however. It's not so much that the topics are too mature (insanity, stillbirth, isolation); it's that the resolution is not exactly uplifting, and harsh reality may be too much for children under 12 or 13 years of age. If you've read Where the Red Fern Grows, it is a sad story in the same way. Be aware of this if you are buying it for a young reader.
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