Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas
(Roaring Brook ~ October 10, 2017)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Compelling middle grade that presents an honest view of westward expansion and the true nature of the Little House series.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this title.
Oh, and remember my review of the recent title Caroline: Little House Revisited including an interview I hosted with the author about Caroline Ingall’s racism??? Check that post out for a lot more on my feelings about the Little House series!
A life on the prairie is not all it’s cracked up to be in this middle-grade novel where one girl’s mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.
Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived—it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time.
Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie—until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.
As a school librarian who has a thought a LOT about the appropriate treatment of the Little House series in today’s world, this book made me incredibly happy. At first I was worried that Tougas would give a romanticized view of Laura’s world, but she blew me away with her historically accurate and honest inclusion of the real impacts of westward expansion on American Indians and the environment. I felt that this information was included in a non-preachy and middle grade-friendly way.
Charlotte and her siblings are written in an age-appropriate way and really convey just how damaged they are by their constant moving and their mom’s relative instability. I appreciate that this was done in a way that doesn’t overshadow the book with darkness.
In all honesty, despite the love the world has for Laura’s books, I would rather have my students and own children read this book rather than the Little House series due to the historical accuracy presented here. However, I still have the Little House series in my library and teachers are still gushing over the series (which I did love as a child) which means kids will still be wanting to read the books. After they do, I will hand them this book in an attempt to set right a lot of the wrongs portrayed in the series, and give them background on actual events. For kids not interested in reading the series, I hope Tougas’ book will be a fun and sneakily-educational read.
This title is a required purchase for any library or classroom with the Little House series, as it presents a counterpoint to the romanticization of westward expansion and extremely racist views of those titles.
Highly recommended in other settings for grades 4-6.