For fans of the Little House TV series, this book serves as the pilot for the wildly successful program that ran at 8 p.m. on Monday night for nine years on NBC. After growing restless at the progress making its way through the Big Woods of Wisconsin, Charles Ingalls uproots his family consisting of his wife Caroline, and three daughters (Mary, Laura and Carrie) to Indian Territory in Kansas where they will carve out a life for themselves courtesy of the homestead act which offered settlers 160 acres of land for free. Naturally, Laura as a six-year-old narrator doesn’t go into the technicalities of all of this, but it is obvious from the conversations she overhears that this is what is going on.
Unlike the cozy and relatively safe confines of the Big Woods, moving to Kansas proves to be a bit more perilous for the Ingalls family. After nearly losing Pa and their beloved dog Jack while trying to cross a river, the family begins to build and settle into their new cabin even though trouble is never too far behind. They have issues with a blizzard, wolves, Indians, prairie fires and who knows what else before the last chapter is finished. They also meet the acquaintance of neighbors who come to help them during times of need including the irrepressible Mr. Edwards, who is never seen nor heard from again after this book. (Unlike the TV series, in which he is a recurring character.)
It’s interesting to me that this seems like the most action packed book of the series and the one that Michael Landon chose as the “jumping off” point for the television series. I often wondered why “Big Woods” was never incorporated into the show, but in re-reading LHOTP, it seems like a better plot line to hook viewers and get them to care about what would happen to this family once they were forced to leave their land after the government re-drew the boundaries between the Indians and the settlers. If you are looking for one of the most gripping Little House books that will bring back memories of the television show. This is a great place to start!