"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 33
Now that I'm no longer worried about squeezing a fifth Little House book into January, I'm happy to announce that this will be one of five readalong posts on the last novel we are tackling together, On the Banks of Plum Creek. It's the longest one, so far!
As we say hello to the Ingalls again, we also say goodbye to three beloved friends from the prairie . . .
Beyond the firelight, Pet and Patty and Bunny were eating grass. They bit it off with sharp, pulling crunches, and then stood chewing it and looking through the dark at the low stars shining. They did not know they had been traded.
Laura was a big girl, seven years old. She was too big to cry. But she could not help asking, "Pa, did you have to give him Pet and Patty? Did you, Pa?"
Pa's arm drew her close to him in a cuddly hug.
"Why, little half-pint," Pa said. "Pet and Patty like to travel. They are little Indian ponies, Laura, and plowing is too hard work for them. They will be much happier traveling out West. You wouldn't want to keep them here, breaking their hearts on a plow . . ."
Nice one, Pa. It's worthy of Mr. Edwards. LOL! But seriously, I think it's the loss of Pet, Patty and Bunny, more than the loss of the little house on the prairie, that really underlines the fact that the adventure is over. Laura Ingalls Wilder can play my emotions like an autoharp. =P
Chapters 1 to 8
I may be the only one "here" who is reading this books for the first time, but I have to ask anyway . . . Did anyone else expect Pa and Ma to rebuild somewhere else? I'm a little surprised that they were content to live in a dugout made by someone else after Pa had gone to so much trouble to build them their own place just one year ago. Granted, they had had other options then . . . and they don't seem to have neighbours willing to trade work in the same way now.
Speaking of those new neighbours, I found this passage kind of curious . . .
In Wisconsin we lived among Swedes and Germans. In Indian Territory, we lived among the Indians. Now here in Minnesota all the neighbours are Norwegians. They're good neighbours, too. But I guess our kind of folks is pretty scarce.
So the Ingalls aren't Swedish? I hope this isn't putting it too bluntly, but . . . What are they then? =P
I also want to say, for the record, that I like their new dugout. =) Who knew that the Norwegian pioneers were the American hobbits? LOL!
But so far, the most notable development is a character development: little half-pint Laura is naughty here! Bwahahahahahahaha! (Remember that "naughty" is defined in the Ingalls-Wilder dictionary as "disobedient to one's Ma and Pa.") In this third book in the Little House series, Laura is seven and starting to test the boundaries--not out of spite, but out of a natural curiosity to see how much she can get away with. And she finds loopholes like a pro! =P
I like the way the "strange animal" she encounters plays Jiminy Cricket to her Pinocchio. (No, she doesn't tell a lie . . . but as the text itself quotes her inner monologue: "Breaking a promise [is] as bad as telling a lie.") And I love the way she learns the value of being a trustworthy person, reflecting, "Being good could never be as hard as being watched."
Now let's all read that again very slowly, because it's made of golden fire: "Being good could never be as hard as being watched."
Big Badger Is Watching You!
If I may be allowed a sweeping generalisation, this brings us to the BIGGEST difference between the Ingalls' generation and our own. For these days, children are constantly being watched. We say it's for their own safety: I know; I get it. But the implication of all that surveillance is that adults don't expect children to be good--that being good is just too difficult for children to do.
A few weeks ago, I saw a news report on new technology that lets parents spy on their children from afar. The products included tracking devices that would let them know where their children are at all times, spyware that would send them transcripts of email, sms or even social media correspondence, and even drug test kits. It's downright dystopian.
Yes, I get that we have more to worry about these days than Charles and Caroline Ingalls ever dreamed of, but it may be that we're channeling all that worry into the wrong parenting channels. To quote The Last Psychiatrist blog on modern parents: "They secretly read their kid's email and Facebook accounts, but have never once read the kid's math book . . . If you do your kid's math homework with them every night, I swear to you that you won't need to worry about Facebook. I will concede that monitoring their Facebook is easier." (The quote is from the provocatively titled post "The Dumbest Generation is Only the Second Dumbest Generation".)
You see, it's not about getting the right external guards in place for all those external threats, but remembering that what matters is internal. Breaking a rule is wrong even if no one knows you did it--and Laura confesses her secret because it is the only way to right that wrong. But if your concern is not setting off the tracking devices, outsmarting the spyware, and passing the drug tests by the skin of your teeth, then you believe--even if you don't put it into these exact words--that breaking a rule is wrong only if you are caught doing it. The concept of confession doesn't even enter that picture.
What are your thoughts on Chapters 1 to 8?
1) Would you mind living in a dugout for a while?
2) Do you think Charles and Caroline Ingalls' parenting style is too unrealistic for modern parents?
Image Sources: a) On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, b) American badger