Little House on the Prairie (novel)

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Little House on the Prairie
Front dustjacket with Sewell illustration
Author Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrator Helen Sewell[1]
Garth Williams (1953)[2]
Country United States
Series Little House
Genre Children's novel
Family saga
Publisher Harper & Brothers
Publication date
September 19, 1935[3]
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 200;[1] 334 pp.[2]
OCLC 18319291
LC Class PZ7.W6461 Lit 1971[1]
Preceded by Farmer Boy
Followed by On the Banks of Plum Creek

Little House on the Prairie is an autobiographical children's novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder, published in 1935.[4] It was the third-published book in the Little House series but its story continues that of the first book, Little House in the Big Woods (1932), and is not related to the second. Thus it is sometimes called the second book in the series, or the second volume of "the Laura Years".[3][a]

Plot summary[edit]

The book is about the months the Ingalls family spent on the Kansas prairie around the town of Independence. Wilder describes how her father built their one-room log house in Indian Territory, having heard that the government planned to open the territory to white settlers soon.

In contrast to Little House in the Big Woods, the Ingalls family faces difficulty and danger in this sequel. They all fall ill from malaria,[5] which was ascribed to breathing the night air or eating watermelon. American Indians are a common sight for the little family, as their house was built in Osage territory, and Ma's open prejudice about Indians contrasts with Laura's more childlike observations about the Indians who live and ride nearby. The Indians begin to congregate at the nearby river bottoms and their war cries unnerve the settlers, who worry they may be attacked, but an Osage chief who was friendly with Pa is ultimately able to avert the hostilities.

By the end of the book, all the family's work is undone when word comes that U.S. soldiers are being sent to remove white settlers from Indian Territory. Pa decides to move the family away immediately before they can be forced to leave.

Historical background[edit]

The Ingalls family moved from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to Kansas in 1868 (stopping for a while in Rothville, Missouri), and lived there between 1869 and 1870. Baby Carrie was born there in August, and a few weeks after her birth, they were forced to leave the territory (however, in the novel, Carrie is present during the move to Kansas). The Ingalls family moved back to Wisconsin where they lived the next four years. In 1874 they started for Walnut Grove, Minnesota, stopping for a while in Lake City, Minnesota.

Although Wilder states that Charles Ingalls had been told that the Kansas territory would soon be up for settlement, their homestead was on the Osage Indian reservation and Charles' information was incorrect. The Ingalls family had no legal right to occupy their homestead, and once informed of their error, left the territory despite the fact that they had only just begun farming it. Several of their neighbors stayed and fought the decision.[6]

As they were preparing to leave, the Ingalls received word from Wisconsin that the man who purchased their farm near Pepin had defaulted on the mortgage. Since they had to leave Kansas, they decided to go back to Wisconsin and moved back to the farm they had left two years earlier. So instead of heading to Minnesota as the series relates, they headed to Wisconsin and lived there again for a few years before heading west to Walnut Grove, Minnesota.


Virginia Kirkus had handled Ingalls Wilder's debut novel Little House in the Big Woods for Harper & Brothers as its children's book editor from 1926 to 1932. In Kirkus Reviews, her semimonthly bulletin from 1933, she awarded Little House on the Prairie a starred review (as she did the next three sequels). "Good Americana – and a first rate tale. Personally, I liked it certainly as well, perhaps better than the other."[3]

In 2012 Little House on the Prairie was ranked number 27 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal – the second of three Little House books in the Top 100.[7]


  1. ^ One 5-volume set, Little House: The Laura Years (January 1994) comprises volumes 1 and 3–6.[8] Thus it features the Ingalls family until Laura is 14 years old, at the close of the "Long Winter" early in 1881.
      The second novel, Farmer Boy (1933) features Laura's husband Almanzo Wilder as a boy. He appears in the sixth novel and their courtship begins in the seventh.


  1. ^ a b c "Little House on the Prairie" (first edition). Library of Congress Online Catalog ( Retrieved 2015-09-17.
  2. ^ a b "Little House on the Prairie"; Newly illustrated, uniform ed. LC Online Catalog. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
  3. ^ a b c "Little House on the Prairie" (starred review). Kirkus Reviews. September 1, 1935. Retrieved 2015-10-02. Online the review header shows a recent front cover, "volume 2" and "illustrated by Garth Williams".
  4. ^ Little House on the Prairie Google Books
  5. ^ History of Malaria[dead link]
  6. ^ Kaye, Frances W. (2000). "Little Squatter on the Osage Diminished Reserve: Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Kansas Indians". Great Plains Quarterly 20 (2): 123–140. 
  7. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal ( Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  8. ^ "Little House the Laura Years Boxed Set: The Early Years Collection": Paperback – Box set, 1994. Amazon product page. Retrieved 2015-09-17.

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