Old Town In The Green Groves: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Lost Little House Years Paperback – May 13 2004
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From School Library Journal
Grades 4-6--It is somewhat startling that Rylant should choose to cover a period of time about which Wilder herself chose not to write. Here the Ingalls leave their farm on the banks of Plum Creek to spend several years in Burr Oak, IA. Pa's determination is tested, but his pioneering spirit and hard work coupled with Ma's essential support and unending labor see them through. The death of a new baby who arrives at the opening of the novel is clearly painful to all; a birth near its closure is a reminder that life goes on. After several different homes in Iowa, the family returns to Plum Creek, where Wilder continued the story in By the Shores of Silver Lake (HarperCollins, 1953). LaMarche's illustrations wisely focus more on things than on people, which helps to reduce their incongruity with Garth Williams's drawings. The characters are somewhat different here. Laura seems less of a tomboy and enjoys tea parties and talking about the dolls and rich furnishings of their small-town neighbors. Some of the events match quite closely with known biographical details, while others are definitely fictionalized. Rylant enjoys detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna much more than the original narrator. These small differences will not matter a whit to those insatiable for further Laura stories. For purists who want the classics left alone and are sure Wilder is rolling in her grave, the whole idea is strictly sacrilege. For most everyone else, this is neither a necessary nor valuable addition.
Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Gr. 3-7. When Wilder wrote the original Little House stories, she left a gap of two years between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake. Now Rylant has crafted a story, based on Wilder's unpublished notes, filling in the story. She tells of the Ingalls' wintering in Walnut Grove, where Laura's brother Freddie was born; Ma's suffering a serious illness; Freddie's dying; and the family's backtracking to Burr Oak, Iowa, where Pa and Ma ran a hotel and Grace was born. Rylant does an excellent job capturing Wilder's cadence and tone as well as imitating the characters' conversational styles. Missing, of course, are the delightful human-interest vignettes that Wilder always included to make the characters really come alive. Rylant also omits the murky details surrounding the family's sudden departure from Burr Oak (probably a wise choice considering this young audience). Despite these small flaws, this is a well-written book that will answer many of the questions frequently asked by series fans. Illustrated with small charcoal drawings. Kay Weisman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Cynthia Rylant is a great author but she fails misearably here. I have a feeling she did this for the sake of money, not because she wanted to write it. This book does not have the vivid descriptions or magical feel to it like the originals. The writing was way too simplistic and the dialogue sounds cut up from the originals and pasted together. Somehow a modern feel leaks into it too... Oh, and by the way I forgot to mention that even though I managed to get to the end I was still left wondering about what happened. So, I had to go to the library and take out a biography on Laura Ingalls Wilder instead.
I think the publishers (whoever they are) should have just left the Little House Books by themselves. They stood out on their own just fine. Also, I think it was unfair to add this book in because Laura didn't want to write about those years, considering how depressing they were. They should've respected her wishes instead but it's too late now...
This is not one of them.
If you are at all familiar with the Little House books, the style of this book will appear glaringly unsimilar. The original series had the unique feature of progressing in reading/comprehension difficulty as the age of the characters progressed--thus, Little House in the Big Woods was the 'easiest' read, and "These Happy Golden Years" was the most advanced. Using this criteria, "Green Groves" does not fit into the space between "On the Banks of Plum Creek" and "By the Shores of Silver Lake." It reads too simply.
Additionally, the conversations between the characters will make you squirm; Laura's books may be wholesome, but they never were saccharine! Rylant has them speaking like "The Beverly Hillbillies," when they aren't being 'cutesy-wootsey;' this is certainly not a feature of any of the original books! I think that the stilted dialog was one of the major disappointments of this book.
Even if the dialog had been true to the originals, however, it is still disconcerting to have someone step forward and claim to know the intimate family details (right down to the dinner conversation!) of a family not her own, and not her contemporaries. As a Laura Ingalls Wilder program presenter, I am fairly well-informed about her life and times, and I've read the original books more times than I can count. (I've worn out three sets...) Still, I would not profess to be able to step into Laura's shoes, and write about her life as if I had been there.
I think that the most upsetting thing of all is that the original, wonderful books are being buried in a sea of look-alike (as far as the covers go!), wannabe, spin-off books, and that today's children might miss the excitement of knowing Laura and her family. What a loss.
The original series had a particular, exact style. Putting this book in between "Plum Creek" and "Silver Lake" doesn't "fill in" anything--the books were originally written to bridge the gap. Now, with the "Martha" and "Charlotte" books and the new series about everyone who ever approached the Little House, the magic of the original books is getting diluted. In the future no one will probably know which are the "real" books by Laura and which are the books about Ma as a girl, grandma as a girl, Rose as a girl, etc. etc. . How sad.
The publisher, HarperCollins, is killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
This book takes the Ingalls family from Walnut Grove to Burr Oak, Iowa. It relates a story of financial hardship greater than any other in the rest of the series, severe illness, and the death of the Ingalls' son. There is little of the cheerful influences found in the original books to counter these tragedies. I feel that care must be exercised when reading this book with young children. Mrs. Wilder did have good reasons for not wishing to put this story on the pages of a book.
Many diehard fans of the series may find it unsettling that the publisher chose to use this story as another installment of the recent outcrop of new Little House books. Rylant's love of the original books made her a good choice to write this one, but the book can't compare to the originals. After all, it was Laura's own spirit that turned the original series into classics, and that simply can't be duplicated in another book, particularly one that contains so much unhappiness It is a good cursory glance at this time of Laura's life for curiosity's sake, but I will never be able to include this book as a member of the series of the originals.
Most recent customer reviews
This book is written well, if a bit too simply. While this book has value as a fill-in, I was galled by the grossly inaccurate illustrations. Read morePublished on Dec 13 2003
I enjoyed reading this book, but at the same time, felt sadness. Cynthia Rylant did a good job of capturing some of the spirit from the other books, but I feel that the reason... Read morePublished on July 31 2003 by PageTurner
On the Banks of Plum Creek was one of my favorite books since I was 9. For some reason I loved reading about Laura's life on Plum Creek. Read morePublished on Jan. 27 2003 by Amazon Customer
This book is supposed to fill in the "lost" years that Laura Ingalls Wilder chose not to write about, when her family gave up their failing farm at Plum Creek and moved to work in... Read morePublished on Aug. 12 2002
This a good, solid, account of Laura Ingalls' life between On the Banks of Plum Creek and On the Shores of Silver Lake. Between these two stories is an actual gap of two years. Read morePublished on June 12 2002 by Elaine Hayes