Originally published on 4 February 2012
So, since I often write Young Adult fiction, and would someday like to add a dark children’s book or picture book to my repertoire, I often pick up these types of books at the library. (Perhaps my picture book won’t be as dark as In the Night Kitchen (Video Link) but I can only hope.) After I finished the Joyce Carol Oates book I reviewed, I went to the Children’s section and picked up a classic, one I’d read as a child but only had vague memories of. This time, of course, I read the book in a matter of two days, but I would still recommend it to anyone… old, young, or otherwise. Though I must warn you. This book has things that we don’t often see in Children’s Books, especially in Children’s Books published before World War II. I’m talking about hints of pedophilia, child brides, lynch mobs, starvation, extinction, and even the character’s Pa getting upset that they weren’t able to kill someone before the sheriffs arrested him (even after nearly being killed himself by a would-be group of payroll robbers).
Yup, I am talking about By The Shores of Silver Lake.
Yes, the Laura Ingalls Wilder book.
This book is still written in the vein of her earlier novels… it’s mostly sweet, genuinely heartwarming without being treacly (though Grownup Chris had more of a problem with Laura always telling Mary that she would see something out loud for her… once or twice would have been enough…) and, while episodic, still a satisfying book. Perhaps that’s why certain things, like Laura finding out one that of her friends, who had just turned thirteen, was married off (and considered ‘lucky’ by her own mother because of it), or seeing Ma tell Laura to lock herself and the girls in their room so their boarders don’t break in and do G-D only knows what, or hearing of murder and frontier justice on the high prairie, stand out a lot more than they would in an all-around dark book. True, people on the frontier had to be concerned with practicality above civilization, but I still don’t remember my third-grade teacher highlighting these points when she read this book to us.
I’m actually kind of worried, now. The two “Little House” books that I have the least memory of are this one and The Long Winter, but the few memories I have of the latter are already dark. What shall I find in that one?