The Long Winter is the sixth book in the Little House series. It was first published in 1940. Laura is 13-14.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s
“The first terrible storm comes to the barren prairie in October. Then it snows almost without stopping until April. Snow has reached the rooftops, and no trains can get through with food or coal. The people of De Smet are starving, including Laura’s family, who wonder how they’re going to make it through this terrible winter. It is young Almanzo Wilder who finally understands what needs to be done. He must save the town, even if it means risking his own life.”
“Pa was shaking his head. “We’re going to have a hard winter,” he said, not liking the prospect.
“Why, how do you know?” Laura asked in surprise.
“The colder the winter will be, the thicker the muskrats build the walls of their houses,” Pa told her. “I never saw a heavier-built muskrats’ house than that one.”
“Laura took the coffee mill from Carrie. It worried her to see how thin and white Carrie was, and so exhausted from grinding. But even worry was dull and farther away than the hateful ceaseless pounding of the storm. The coffee mill’s handle ground round and round, it must not stop. It seemed to make her part of the whirling winds driving the snow round and round over the earth and in the air, whirling and beating at Pa on his way to the stable, whirling and shrieking at the lonely houses, whirling the snow between them and up to the sky and far away, whirling forever over the endless prairie.”
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
I am torn about this book. Sometimes I see it as boring and repetitive and other times I am in awe of Wilder’s continual growth as a writer. It is a little dull in some parts—but that’s the point! Imagine how dull it must be to sit day after day in a house with a blizzard raging outside, with nothing to do but twist hay into firewood and grind wheat in a coffee mill and be continually cold, with one day of freezing rest in between the storms. Wilder created a work of genius here. The reader feeling a bit bored by the Ingalls’ sitting in their room perfectly mirrors what the Ingalls’ themselves felt.
There is so much crammed into this book. Pa’s astuteness in getting more wheat for his family, Almanzo and Cap Garland’s daring and suspenseful (a great move by Wilder) trip to save the town, the Ingalls’ determination to survive and to not give up, their celebration in April when the snow finally stops…these are only a few of the great moments in this book. It’s another Newbery Honor, and The Long Winter fully deserves it. As I think I’ve said before, the last three books are by far the best in the series.
Oh, and Laura meets Almanzo for the first time in this book. I’ll discuss their relationship more in the last two books when it becomes more pronounced.
What I Didn’t Like:
Like I mentioned above, it can be a bit dull in places.
The Long Winter is, in my opinion, a work of literary genius and a promise for even more good things to come. Wilder once again shows her skill in drawing the reader into the story. There are some great moments that happen despite the occasional dullness.
Coming Up Next: Little Town on the Prairie