Posted on Tuesday, September 5th, 2006 at 8:04 pm under Children's/YA, Fiction

Title: Farmer Boy
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Why I liked this book: Like many young American girls, I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, the fictional and somewhat autobiographical stories of Laura Ingalls and her family as they traveled and built new homesteads in the woods and prairies of America. Farmer Boy is similar homesteader fare, however the central character is not Laura, but Almanzo Wilder, a nine-year old boy who prefers his farm chores to schoolhouse learning. Farmer Boy follows Almanzo as he faces the challenges of living off the land, in a world where if you want to sweep the floor, you first have to make your own broom from the straw that you planted last Spring. If you ever wanted to know how to train young oxen to the yoke, or how to grow a milk-fed pumpkin, this is the book for you. Occasionally reflecting the sexism and brutality of its time, this is a classic that can be read by anyone who has an interest in the life and culture of rural America in the late 1800’s.

The real treat is that Farmer Boy is set in northern New York, outside Malone. The sites and locations mentioned in the book are familiar, as is the extreme weather, political landscape and related events. To make your treat a double delight, I would encourage you to visit the Wilder Homestead in Malone after reading the book. The Wilder Homestead is the birthplace of Almanzo Wilder, the author’s real life husband whose reminiscences about his childhood on the farm became the basis of Farmer Boy. There you can see the original farmhouse and reconstructed barns which were rebuilt based on the archaeological findings of SUNY Potsdam faculty and students. The museum and homestead are full of antique farm tools and household artifacts from the late 19th century. Wilder Homestead tour guides demonstrate many of the artifacts and relate them to events and descriptions in the book. Hurry! The Wilder Homestead closes on Sept. 30th!

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