on October 7, 2003
THE LONG WINTER is the best book for a couple of different reasons. First, it's a dramatic tale of a whole town nearly starving to death during the hard winter. Secondly, this seems to be the only book in which not everything is seen from Laura's viewpoint. This was a wise decision on the part of the author, because since Pa was the only one who went out of the house during the bitter weather, he would've had to come back and relate everything to his family.
In addition, the harrowing trek by Almanzo and Cap to find wheat was best told by the author switching to their viewpoint. Also, some of the tension amongst the townspeople when supplies are low and prices are high really gives the novel added flavor and drama.
A third reason that THE LONG WINTER is the best of the series is that it's so educational. Even the most casual of readers can pick up survival tips by observing what Pa, Ma and the girls do to 'contrive', strive and ultimately, survive. It is true that some of the chapters have a sameness, but this makes the reader feel what it was like to face starvation in the freezing dark cold. When Laura feels 'never fully awake', she's experiencing classic symptoms of starvation.
If you choose just one "Little House" book (but why would anyone stop at one?) read THE LONG WINTER.
on February 18, 2004
I have embarked on the reading of the "Little House" book series, an historical account of the life of pioneer girl Laura Ingalls and her family. This is the 5th book in the series and it is by far the most exciting. Pa, Ma, Mary(who is now blind), Laura, Carrie and Grace get a new homestead but they must move into the town of DeSmet for the winter and they plan to build a house on their new land in the spring. Once settled in, Pa meets a mysterious old indian at the store who warns of a blizzard that will last seven months. And he is right. It comes in October and there is still blizzard in April. It is so cold where they live that there is ice in their bucket of water every morning so they must daily heat it on the stove in order to get water. To keep warm at night they put what is called a hot flatiron in their beds. I think they are pieces of the stove that go on burners. Like all the other books in this series, you learn interesting things: How do you get your horse out of a hole in the snow? How do you make a lamp out of a button and some grease? How do you ward off and treat frostbite? What do you do when all you have to eat for months is potatoes and just when you can't stand to eat one more potato you run out? Yes, they actually ran out of food! It happened twice in this book. You will learn what happens when a family runs out of food. You will learn what it is like to begin starving. You will see what 2 men did in their effort to save a whole town from starving. You will see how some people act when pushed to their very limits. The good and the bad come out in people. When Laura wakes up every morning, there is frost on the nails that hold their roof and walls together. The blizzard has howling, screaming winds with only one day break between 4 day long blizzards. The trains cannot run at all so no food or goods of any kind come into the town. When Christmas comes Laura makes presents for everyone in her family and she is the only one who doesn't get a present at all. But she never says this, you have to figure it out. The whole book covers just this one winter when Laura is thirteen years old.
There is one thing I always wanted to know that this book doesn't tell you either. How does Mary feel about becoming blind? She used to be "friend sisters" with Laura and they did everything together. Now Laura does these things with little Carrie who is now 10.
If you only plan to read one book in the "Little House" series, this one should be it. You'll be thankful for your furnace, your roof, and your food. You'll find out how easy you've got it, and how to be a hero. I'm not planning to read it again, I feel cold and hungry just thinking about it, it was too realistic. But I think it was really really good for the kids to see how good they have it.
For some reason, this work, of all the author's, remains one of my favorite. I was first exposed to these books, this one included, will over fifty years ago when it was read to me by a teacher. I have reread the book sever times over the years, including recently and it still appeals to the little boy lurking inside me somewhere. I do feel that this book, along with the other books in this series, is children literature at its best. The stories are somehow timeless, yet in their telling, not only do we get some great writing from a great story teller, but we are given a snap shot of our actual history, seen through the eyes of a child. Laura is older is this work of course, but due the circumstances of the books, this makes it all the more noteworthy. Cannot recommend this one highly enough.
on February 2, 2000
We have just finished reading this fifth book in the Laura series with our five year old daughter - she has loved all of them. I can recall reading this as a child, and the impression of the hunger, hardship, and courage of the Ingalls family stayed with me. I thought it might be a little dark for my daughter, but she really enjoyed it. We heartily recommend the entire series, even for children who are not able to read it independently yet - she started the series two months ago when she turned five, and we have read it virtually every night since (Little House in the Big Woods, on the Prairie, Banks of Plum Creek, etc.). It really is an interesting way to introduce American history, settling of the West, etc., into a child's life, especially a girl's. My younger daugther, 3, enjoys it too, but has a shorter attention span. The two of them play "Laura & Mary" all the time, and have demonstrated via their imaginary play that not just the spirit but the detail of the stories have made an impression. I don't think we have "ruined" it for them by reading it to them before they could read it on their own - I think they will return to these stories later.
on June 12, 2010
We take up Laura's story when the family has moved onto their Claim outside of De Smet. LITTLE HOUSE readers will delight to learn more about Pa, Ma, blind Mary, Carrie and baby Grace. Plus we finally meet the famous Wilder boys from NY State--of whom the younger brother, Almazno, is destined to marry Laura some years later. (Considering the author's names I feel I am not spoiling anything.) Warned by an old Indian that every 7 years winters are hard, and that every 21 years they will be severe, Pa decides to move his family into the relative safety and social warmth of their house in town. The blizzards start in October and last through April, bringing subzero temperatures, ferocious winds, relentless snow and ice. Long days of early dark, and feelings of virtual isolation even with stores and houses close by make Life gloomy then downright grim, as the family battles personal depression along with hunger and fatigue.
They survive physically because Pa hauls loads of hay on sunny days--hay not only for their livestock but which they need
to twist into "sticks" for fuel, heat and light. Also because Ma, the ingenious prairie housewife, makes button lamps when the kerosene gives out, and uses a coffee mill to grind wheat for coarse, brown bread--managing to feed them all when there is almost nothing left. But the entire town faces starvation because the trains have stopped running west--mired in frozen snow drifts 20 feet deep. The Wilder brothers have their own store, but all grocery stores have run out of supplies and the town is desperate. Then they hear a rumor that somewhere out of town--in which direction?--some farmer raised wheat which might be for sale--at the right price? Who will risk their lives to find this fellow--If he exists?
The Ingalls family owes its psychological survival to internal factors, such as Pa's wonderful fiddle music and Ma's quiet insistence that the girls continue their education even when school is shut down for the winter. Despite occasional parental flare ups and sisterly bickering the family pulls through because of their deep love and respect for each other. Laura, "Half Pint" as Pa calls her fondly, matures over those long bitter months; she privately vows to become a school teacher after all, to earn money to send Mary to a college for the Blind. When tempers threaten to result in mob rule Pa speaks with the voice of reason to calm desperate men, to encourage greedy men to be reasonable. With Garth Williams' charming pen and ink illustrations this book is a sweet but sobering read for "young" adults of all ages.
on January 25, 2014
I grew up on the Little House books and still like to go back and reread them occasionally, for their wisdom, their entertainment value and for their glimpses of a long gone lifestyle. I picked up a couple of them in audiobook form and decided to listen to one the other day. Over all, the books hold up well in audio format. Some events take on a different color or emphasis when you listen to them, as opposed to reading the words on a page. Almanzo and Cap's journey to find the wheat was especially exciting from that standpoint. These would be wonderful family listening while on a road trip or at bedtime. My only objection was with the reader. She's okay when she's just reading the book, but when she tries to "sing" (and there is a surprising amount of music in the Little House books), especially when she's singing as "Pa", it's almost unbearable. She has perhaps the most unmelodic voice I've ever heard. I found myself turning down the volume until the song was over. Otherwise, I highly recommend the audio version of these books.
on December 1, 2006
Of all the Little House books, this one seems to evoke the strongest emotions. Whether it's cold, hunger or just admiration for the family. This book is an experience and one that you'll remember long after you're done.
More than all of that, this is a book to listen to. From the beginning of the whir of the mowing machine to the singing on the last page, you hear this book. The blizzards howl and screech, threads sing together like music, voices of strangers in the street, the coffee mill grinds on endlessly. Pa loses his "voice" when his hands are too roughened by twisting hay to play the violin. Throughout all is the music made by singing, speaking and the routine of life, against the voices in the blizzard. Many times the family sang or recited in order to hear themselves and fight against the howling winds.
When I first read this book as a girl, I remembered the cold and how Laura had to twist that hay just to survive and stay warm. Now as an adult, I admire the family dynamics. Caroline and Charles always stayed positive and strong. They didn't argue, they only figured out a way to get them by. When the weather got any of the family down, someone else gave them courage. Laura really developed in this story as well. It was the first time that I could recall her using Ma's words, "alls well that ends well" after the slough incident. She showed more responsibility and discipline than she had to this point.
The story is simply told, not with big words but with a big view on life. The pacing keeps you turning pages, even without our modern day cliffhangers. The best part is this book is clean and portrays good values while not being preachy. I would recommend this to anyone of any age. Just make sure you snuggle before reading because when you're done, you'll feel as if you had gone through it as well.
on September 17, 2005
Only a writer like Laura Ingalls-Wilder can take an endless monotony of blizzards and darkness of that long winter of 1880-81 that she describes in THE LONG WINTER, and turn it into a wonderful book, filled with drama and beauty.
This book made me think back to those times in my life when a simple one day storm with a resulting blockage of roads and a cut in power lines would leave me and my family or my housemates helpless, bored, cold, stranded, and only a few hours away from hunger and misery unless these were quickly restored. The book also made me think back to those rare times in my life when acting alone, or with only a handful of companions I had to pit myself against the elements in a real test of my grit, for a mere hours or at most days. I remember how quickly dread could take over, and how many chances there were in a single day for death to follow a single slip.
If right after such thoughts, I think of Laura's book, and the incredible bravery of her family, their spunk, stamina, resourcefulness, humor, utter lack of self-pity or expectation of outside salvation, I truly realize, with this book, what an amazing woman she was, and what an amazing family she came from. Of course, her incredible and vivid recollection of the details of this long winter, as written in this book decades after the events occurred, adds the dazzle of masterful form, to the solid bedrock of substance that was her character. Of all her books, this is thus the most telling, of what this woman was made of. It was very instructive for my son to read as well, and for all today's children, for they learn how privileged they are, but more surprisingly perhaps to them, when they see Laura thankful for her family's strength and love, and grateful in spite of her misery, they see how this gratitude is what makes her happy, and is the real secret and blessing.
on November 30, 2006
if you like reading books about animals and people who work hard to get what they want,then you will like this book. I like this story,personally, because it tells a story about a family caught in a blizzard with little food and no places to go to get food because there are no trains and there is hardly anything for them to do but wait. You should try this book because you will love the story about a family who is fighting to save their lives. I guarantee you will enjoy reading "The Long Winter".
on August 16, 2001
but despite this, they remained ever hopeful! This book gets a bit sad due to the hard winter they had to get through. A few times the Ingalls family nearly ran out of food and things to burn to keep warm, but through ingenuity and faith they were able to keep fed and warm!
In this book, the whole town is suffering because the train with the towns supplies was unable to get through due to blizzard upon blizzard upon blizzard that kept the railway covered!
To make matters even harder for the Ingalls family they had no way to burn their lamp and Pa's fingers were so stiff that he could not play the fiddle! The hours seemed to drag sometimes for the family, but I was intrigued to see how they would come up with new and creative ways of passing the time.
This book is certainly a must read due to the wonderful example the Ingalls provide for dealing with hard times. They never let go of their faith and hope!