On the Banks of Plum Creek

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On the Banks of Plum Creek
Front dustjacket with Sewell illustration
Author Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrator Helen Sewell and
Mildred Boyle
Garth Williams (1953)[1]
Country United States
Series Little House
Genre Children's novel
Family saga
Publisher Harper & Brothers
Publication date
October 20, 1937[2]
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 239;[3] 338 pp.[1]
OCLC 1291009
LC Class PZ7.W6461 On[3]
Preceded by Little House on the Prairie (novel)
Followed by By the Shores of Silver Lake

On the Banks of Plum Creek is an autobiographical children's novel written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published in 1937, the fourth of nine books in her Little House series. It is based on a few years of her childhood when the Ingalls family lived at Plum Creek near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, during the 1870s. The original dustjacket proclaimed, "The true story of an American pioneer family by the author of Little House in the Big Woods".

Plum Creek was one runner-up for the Newbery Medal in 1938, as were the next four Little House books through 1944. In retrospect the five novels are called Newbery Honor Books.[4]

Plot summary[edit]

Having left their little house on the Kansas prairie, the Ingalls family travels by covered wagon to Minnesota and settles in a dugout on the banks of Plum Creek. Pa trades his horses Pet and Patty to the property owner (a man named Hanson, who wants to go west) for the land and crops. He later gets two new horses as Christmas presents for the family, which Laura and her sister Mary name "Sam" and "David". Pa soon builds a new, above-ground, wooden house for the family, trusting that their first crop of wheat will pay for the lumber and materials.

Now that they live near a town, Laura and Mary go to school for the first time. There they make friends, but also meet the town storekeeper's daughter, Nellie Oleson, who makes fun of Laura and Mary for being "country girls." Laura and Mary attend a party at the Olesons' home, and Ma has Laura and Mary invite all the girls (including Nellie) to a party at their house to reciprocate.

The family goes through very hard times when grasshoppers (actually Rocky Mountain Locusts) decimate the much-anticipated wheat crop, and lay so many eggs that there is no hope of a crop the following year. For two harvest seasons, Pa is forced to walk three hundred miles east to find work on farms that escaped the grasshopper plague.

The book ends with Laura's father returning safely to the house after becoming lost near their home during a severe four-day blizzard. Laura is portrayed in this book as being seven to nine years old.

Walnut Grove[edit]

Although Plum Creek (in Redwood County, Minnesota) is near the town of Walnut Grove, the name of the town is not mentioned in the book.


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 On the Banks of Plum Creek a starred review (as she did its one predecessor and two successors, books 3 to 6 and no others). "If anything, it is better than her enchanting Little House in the Big Woods. ... Laura is always in trouble, but a staunch young person when brought to the text. It is perfect Americana."[2]

On the Banks of Plum Creek was the first of five Newbery Medal runners-up for Ingalls Wilder, books 4 to 8 in the series.[4]


  1. ^ a b "On the Banks of Plum Creek"; Newly illustrated, uniform ed. LC Online Catalog. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  2. ^ a b "On the Banks of Plum Creek" (starred review). Kirkus Reviews. October 1, 1937. Retrieved 2015-10-02. Online the review header shows a recent front cover and states "illustrated by Garth Williams".
  3. ^ a b "On the Banks of Plum Creek" (first edition). Library of Congress Online Catalog (catalog.loc.gov). Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  4. ^ a b "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". Association for Library Service to Children. American Library Association (ALA.org). Retrieved 2015-09-21.

External links[edit]