This by far was always my favorite of the Little House books and with good reason…this is the book in which Laura goes to school for the first time, meets Nellie, gets into a fight with her and attends her first big party. If you are a fan of the TV show like I am, you know that these were the central plot lines of some of the earliest LHOTP episodes. Of course, that’s where the similarities ends. This was the book in which I learned that Michael Landon took a whole lot of liberties with the show and that the books were very, very different. Spoiler: Albert wasn’t really a member of the Ingalls family like he was in the TV show. (Sorry if that is news to you.)
Once again Pa is on the move. After having to give up his land in Indian Territory, he moves the Ingalls family to a small homestead along the banks of Plum Creek where they first live in a dugout before Charles manages to build the famed “Little House.” For the first time, the Ingalls property is within a three mile walk to a town where the girls can go to school and make friends with other kids their age. With the exception of the aforementioned Nellie Oleson, this is exciting for Mary and Laura but as usually the good times aren’t meant to last. No sooner is Pa about to harvest his first successful wheat crop, than a plague of grasshoppers swoop in and eat everything in sight. This causes Charles to walk 300 miles in order to find work on the harvests leaving Ma and the girls to carry on in his absence.
Most of the book centers on how the family endures this terrible grasshopper plague, not only when it first occurs but after the eggs are laid, hatched and the second generation moves on. There is a very nice scene at Christmas, when the town is the recipient of a giving tree at church…which suggests to me that the Ingalls’ did not live in a very affluent community, but I could be wrong and a heartbreaking scene in which Laura is forced by Ma to give up her precious rag doll Charlotte. Still my favorite book of the bunch…even after all of these years.