Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: Little Town at the Crossroads

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Little Town at the Crossroads
Author: Maria D. Wilkes
Date: 1997
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 0-06-440651-2
Length: 343 pages
Quote: “Before Laura Ingalls Wilder ever penned the Little House books, she wrote to her aunt Martha Quiner Carpenter, asking her to ‘tell the story of those days’ when she and Laura’s mother, Caroline, were growing up in Brookfield, Wisconsin.”
And this is the book Maria D. Wilkes made out of the story Aunt Martha told. Laura Ingalls’ mother and sister make friends with a German immigrant girl who spells English words correctly but pronounces the letters “Ah-bay-tsay-day-ay,” and so on, so she can’t be given credit in spelling bees. Laura’s Uncle Henry brings in passenger pigeons to cook into pigeon pies. Woodchucks attack the garden just in time to win the children the right to keep a dog, even though their widowed mother hasn’t felt able to afford to feed a dog.

For me the Little House series ends with On the Way Home; although they were novelized, the Little House books have the credibility of memoirs, and the subsequent tie-ins are mere fiction. For readers who don't make this distinction, they may all seem like nice historical stories for children, with a focus on the kind of thing children really did in the nineteenth century. Considering how much Rose and Laura actually fictionalized, that's probably the more realistic view to take.

Apart from being illustrated by Dan Andreasen rather than Garth Williams, this book is much like the original Little House books, with memories of how people used to do everyday work told as vividly as memories of special events. Elementary school readers should be able to enjoy it; if they’re interested in old crafts and old songs, they may enjoy rereading it every year.

As usual: if you buy it here, $5 for the book + $5 for shipping, and Maria DiVencenzo "Wilkes" (this site explains why the publisher wanted her to use the name "Wilkes") gets $1. Or a charity of her choice gets $1. Other online retailers may offer a cheaper price but, so far as I know, this is the only site that pays living writers when we sell secondhand books. Besides, if you buy more than one small book here, you might be able to get enough books in the same $5 package to make the total price lower than you'd pay those other sellers.