(Review) The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pictures by Garth Williams

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper & Row. 1968.
Genre: Fiction. Young adult fiction. Frontier and pioneer life.
Pages: 335.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of frontier and pioneer life. Readers of Laura Ingalls Wilder books.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon

Link @ Laura Ingalls Wilder Home

The Long Winter is book 6 in the Little House series.
The books in the series:
Book One-Little House in the Big Woods
Book Two-Farmer Boy
Book Three-Little House on the Prairie
Book Four-On The Banks of Plum Creek
Book Five-By The Shores of Silver Lake
Book Six-The Long Winter
Book Seven-Little Town on the Prairie
Book Eight-These Happy Golden Years
Book Nine-The First Four Years

Have you watched the documentary about Laura Ingalls Wilder on PBS American Masters? It first aired December 29, 2020. At the link you can watch the documentary. I enjoyed it!

The time period for most of the story is the winter of 1880-1881.
The Ingalls family have a claim outside town and a place in town.
The family consists of Pa, Charles Ingalls. Ma, Caroline Ingalls. Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace. Grace is 3. Carrie is 9. Laura is age 13 but turned 14 in February 1881. Mary is 15 but turned 16 in January 1881.
When the story begins Laura and Pa are mowing and stacking hay. Pa notices the muskrats have built thick walls for their homes. This is a predictor of a hard winter. An early frost in September, and a Native American’s prediction push Pa to move the family to town for the winter season.
The story covers the time period of the intense and infamous winter of 1880-1881; and, the winter’s impact on the Ingalls family.

A train in the prairie of America during the hard winter of 1880-1881.

My Thoughts:
The Long Winter is my favorite of the Little House series for several reasons.
1. The story shows the Ingalls’ family dealing with a terrible winter, and a bleak situation with food and heating.
2. The family work together to survive despite being on the cusp of despair.
3. Despite the situation, they are a family who love, respect, honor, and are patient with one another.
4. I enjoyed reading about how they prepared foods-how they created a meal out of 2 ingredients.
5. I enjoyed reading about Pa’s music when he played the fiddle. The family is entertained and comforted by music and song. I love the words of their songs printed in the book.
6. They are thankful. With meager portions for Christmas dinner. With homemade gifts for Christmas. With a worsening situation in a lack of heating and food. The family is stoic. They persevere. They remain thankful.
7. Laura and Carrie both remark about living in the noisy town. They are anxious about school. This creates an illustration of how a people group pioneered in the rural areas in America. They adjusted their lives to the quiet rural country. In addition, the sound of the wind became louder. The sound of birds became louder. These sounds would have been drowned out when living in town. Their senses are acute from living in a claim outside of town. Anxiety about being around strangers is because they are not used to being around people outside their family. Both girls adjusted. This shows another side of their hardy personalities. The ability to make do. The ability to adapt. The ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
8. It is through Almanzo Wilder’s eyes I see the family and especially Charles Ingalls. He saw their thin, pale bodies. They impacted him. He became worried about them. He made a decision to help.
9. The girls are mindful and helpful to Mary. For example, her college fund is not to be touched.
10. The Long Winter is an inkling, an introduction to the young man Almanzo. Laura will marry him later. But, it is in this story he became an remarkable and admirable person.
11. Laura is an amazing writer. She brings me in to her world with vivid descriptions, and those not quite apparent but shaded a bit.
12. I love the last paragraph.
“And as they sang, the fear and the suffering of the long winter seemed to rise like a dark cloud and float away on the music. Spring had come. The sun was shining warm, the winds were soft, and the green grass growing.”

Themes are family love, survival, sacrifice, compassion, perseverance, courage, and bravery.

I’ve heard people remark Laura left out things about her childhood. The Long Winter and the other Little House books are not the complete story. I believe people who write their biographies are selective or focused on showing a certain vision for the book. If I were to tell my story I’d not write every detail or share every life event. Plus, the Little House series’ audience has been children and young adults. The material for the books were written with the intention of its selective audience.


3 thoughts on “(Review) The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pictures by Garth Williams

  1. I loved this book series growing up! I remember this particular book being much more serious than the previous ones, but that may have just been my eight-year-old brain. Though I agree with you that this series is certainly written for a younger audience, and lacks a lot of the historical detail adult books can provide. But, like you said, just because it’s for a younger audience doesn’t mean it’s not a great series!

    Liked by 2 people

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