October 07, 2011
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Wilder diverges from her normal telling of her family, to tell about her husband Almanzo's childhood. His was very different from hers in that he lived on a large successful farm with many brothers and sisters and had quite a few chores. The book starts when he is eight and moves to encompass around a year of his life. It shows him gaining more maturity and being allowed to do harder tasks as he gets older. It also goes into other aspects of his life like interactions with his siblings, school time, and meals that he ate.
The characters, in this case Almanzo and his family, weren't really elaborated on as much. They all were pretty focused on one aspect of their personality (Royal-Dependable, Alice-Kind, Eliza Jane-Bossy, etc.) without diverging too much from the norm. Almanzo acted appropriately for a little boy, but in the book he tended to be quite focused on a few things and these were mentioned over and over.
That wasn't the only repetition though. As much as I enjoyed the food being described, it seemed that every time Almanzo ate he "sighed and tucked in" for more food. I recall reading something similar to that line for each meal described. The rest of the writing was ok, not as good as the rest of the series, but passable. Wilder does include quite a bit of informative detail, like how boots are made and how to saw ice from a lake which I found interesting. One other complaint I would have is that this book jumped from time to time quickly without a real smooth transition. It made it hard to focus sometimes. To note, the writing in this is very mellow and entirely appropriate for children.
Its a wonderful series, and I can see this book appealing more to boys instead of the other girl-based books. It does capture the time well and elaborates on a person that was very much a center of Wilder's life.