Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Long Winter

The Long Winter

Laura Ingalls Wilder , Garth Williams
For ages 8 to and up
HarperCollins, 1953   ISBN: 978-0060264604

When an old Indian warns the people living in De Smet that a “wind snow, big wind” is going to be coming soon and that it is going to last seven months, many of the people in the little town don’t believe him. However Pa Ingalls is not so quick to dismiss his words. He respects the Indians, whom he believes have a deep understanding of the natural world. Still, it is hard to accept that a blizzard season could possibly last so long. Surely the Indian must be exaggerating.

The Ingalls family and the others who live in De Smet soon find out that the Indian was right. Blizzard after blizzard hits the town, with only a day in between each onslaught. Soon the trains are unable to get through the huge piles of snow, and the townsfolk know that they are not going to get any new supplies of food or fuel until the spring. As food and wood supplies dwindle, the Ingalls do their best to keep up their spirits with songs, storytelling, and other activities.

However, it becomes much harder to remain cheerful when food is so scarce that everyone is always hungry, and when it is necessary to spend hour after hour twisting hay into sticks to burn in the stove. Most of the families start to fear that they are going to starve to death. There is no more grain in town and it will be months before the train will be able to get through. Is it true that a settler somewhere on the prairie has some wheat, and if the story is true can someone from the town find him and persuade him to sell some of the precious grain to the townspeople?

It is hard to imagine what it would be like to spend month after month indoors, trapped by terrible storms and trying not to think about the possibility of starvation. In this sixth book in the “Little House” series, readers will get a real feel for how brave and determined the Ingalls family were as they tried to survive in a very inhospitable part of the world. Laura Ingalls Wilder tells her story with humor, downplaying her own role in her family’s survival and yet giving her readers a very vivid picture of what it must have been like to live on the frontier during a long and grim winter.