Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

By the Shores of Silver Lake

By the Shores of Silver Lake

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrator:   Garth Williams 
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 8 and up
HarperCollins, 1953   ISBN: 978-0060264161

Laura and her family have had a hard time. Poor crop yields have made it hard for Pa to make a living, and then everyone in the family except Pa and Laura got scarlet fever. Worst of all the dreadful disease has made lovely, patient Mary completely blind. So, when aunt Docia arrives at Plum Creek and offers Pa a job working for the railroad out in Dakota Territory Pa leaps at the chance to start anew. He always likes going west and this time the government will give him a piece of land to farm as well.

So, Pa drives away with aunt Docia. Not long after, when Mary is well enough, Ma and the girls join Pa at the railroad camp in Dakota Territory. This time though they don’t travel in a covered wagon. Instead, they ride on a train. For Laura, Mary and Carrie this is a truly thrilling and fascinating experience. They also get to eat in a hotel and later, at the railroad camp, Laura gets to do all kinds of things that she has never done before.

Everyone is relieved when the railroad work is done for the season. The rough and sometimes dangerous workers move on and the Ingalls family is left alone on the wide prairie, able once again to hear the wind in the grass and to watch geese and ducks land on Silver Lake. In the spring Pa will choose and claim a once again he will break sod to create a farm.

In this fifth book in the Little House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder continues the story of her family’s extraordinary adventures as they try to build a life for themselves in the new western territories of the United States. Despite much hardship and loss, Laura and her family keep on going. They sing songs and dance to the sound of Pa’s fiddle, and they enjoy simple celebrations together and with new friends.

What is especially striking in this book is the way in which Laura shares her love of the prairie with her readers. She captures the way the open spaces feel and we come to see that she has the pioneer spirit in her, always wanting to go west to new lands where there are few people. We come to understand too how Laura came to have such a keen power of observation, which she was later able to turn into stories to such great effect. She had a lot of practice “seeing” for her big sister Mary.