Farmer Boy is the third book (written second) in the Little House series. It was first published in 1933. Almanzo Wilder, Laura’s future husband, is 8-9 in this book.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s
“While Laura Ingalls grows up in a little house on the western prairie, Almanzo Wilder is living on a big farm in New York State. Almanzo and his brother and sisters work at their chores from dawn to supper most days—no matter what the weather. There is still time for fun, though, especially with the horses, which Almanzo loves more than anything.”
“Almanzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes, with brown ham-gravy. He ate the ham. He bit deep in velvety bread spread with sleek butter, and he ate the crisp golden crust. He demolished a tall heap of pale mashed turnips, and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. Then he sighed, and tucked his napkin deeper in the neckband of his red waist. And he ate plum preserves and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon-rind pickles. He felt very comfortable inside. Slowly he ate a large piece of pumpkin pie.”
“There was oatmeal with plenty of thick cream and maple sugar. There were fried potatoes, and the golden buckwheat cakes, as many as Almanzo wanted to eat, with sausages and gravy or with butter and maple syrup. There were preserves and jams and jellies and doughnuts. But best of all Almanzo liked the spicy apple pie, with its thick, rich juice and its crumbly crust. He ate two big wedges of the pie.”
“All the corn was frozen. The little leaves were stiff, and broke if you touched them. Only cold water would save the life of the corn. Every hill must be watered before the sunshine touched it, or the little plants would die. There would be no corn-crop that year.”
Warnings: Don’t read this book when you’re hungry.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
You might think this book is about a boy working on the farm, where the author describes the work that he does and the things he gets up to while doing his work. And, well, it is—Wilder really delves deeply into the lives of a successful farmer and his family working from five in the morning until bedtime at nine at night. But this book is not just about Almanzo’s work on the farm. It’s also about his hunger.
That’s right, this book is also about food.
Just take a look at the first two passages I quoted above. Those are two examples of the many descriptions of food and meals in Farmer Boy. Almanzo is a growing boy and he is perpetually hungry. And back then people ate a lot because they worked all day and needed the calories. Just take a look at what he’s eating for breakfast: not just oatmeal, potatoes, and pancakes, but apple pie. For breakfast.
This is one of my favorite books in the Little House series. It’s entertaining with a good amount of information mixed in. The end of the novel is heartwarming and really shows Almanzo’s growth and the trust that his father places in him because of that growth.
Oh, yes, and did I mention the food?
What I Didn’t Like:
There’s one chapter in here that’s entirely devoted to the building of a bobsled for hauling wood. It’s a little boring (unless you really want to know how to build a bobsled like they did in the 1800s), but it can easily be skipped.
This is one Little House book that would be enjoyed by both girls and boys (and women and men). In my opinion, it’s one of the best books that Wilder wrote: it’s got character development, heartwarming scenes and a ton of information packed into those pages. Just don’t read it when you’re hungry because of the high amount of food descriptions and eating that takes place.
Coming Up Next: On the Banks of Plum Creek