On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the Banks of Plum Creek
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1937

I decided to listen to this book while cooking dinner or driving in the car.   Cherry Jones performed my edition.  Who is Cherry Jones?  Apparently, she is an American actress, but I had never heard of her; however, she can perform my books for me any time. I don't care what it is because she knows how to read a book aloud.  

The dugout

On the Banks of Plum Creek rejoined Laura and her family in Minnesota.  Kansas did not work out, so they traveled northeast, landed in Plum Creek, and sold the wagon and horses for a dugout, a small wheat field, and oxen.  I think Laura was seven or eight.  

Pa is truly an optimist.   He was so confident of his decision to move to Minnesota - that the land and weather were optimal for crops - he foresaw an excellent future for them.  He told Caroline and his girls three or four times that they were going to be rich off of the crops that he had not planted, yet. Laura imagined that they would be so rich; they would have candy every day.  Pa told Caroline they would have beef every day - "anything they wanted."   Talk about speculation.  They forgot that God is in control of all things.  

It is almost impossible to believe what happened next.  The week Pa planned to reap the little wheat field that the original owner had left, millions of grasshoppers arrived and ate every living green thing as far as they could see.  It was like Armageddon.  Everything was gone, except the grasshoppers; they remained for awhile, and even laid their eggs for the following year.  Laura does such a good job describing this nightmare, you will want to look around for any that may have escaped the pages of your book and showed up in this present age.   

This reality forced Pa to walk 200 miles east to look for work.  When he realized they would have to postpone those plans to be rich, he pulled on his old, hole-y boots and decided to go where the work was.  This demonstrated true perseverance, resilience, and resolve.  By the way, Pa would need those traits later, when a little walk into town turned into a blizzard, and he disappeared for several days.  That was an anxious time for Ma and the girls.  

Besides the apocalyptic grasshoppers, Ma and Carrie in a runaway wagon, Laura almost drowning in the angry Creek, the mean brat Anna that commandeered Laura's rag doll, and Pa being swallowed alive by the blizzard, this is one of my favorite books from the Little House series.  This story is how the season spring feels.  I can feel the warm sunshine and breezes and hear the rustling of the tall grasses and the the roaring of the creek.  Plum Creek is a place of curiosity and exploration for Laura, though it almost gets her killed.  We get to know Carrie a lot better, who is developing a little personality.  Mary and Laura go to school for the first time, and we finally meet the infamous Nellie Olson.  In this book, we discover how much Laura loves horses.  After meeting her future husband in Farmer Boy, is it any wonder that God brought them together?

Christmas at church

My favorite line from Laura: 

On a hot Sunday with nothing to do but sit in the stifling house: 
Carrie wanted a drink, but she pushed the cup away and made a face and said, "Nasty!"
"You better drink it," Mary told her.  "I want a cold drink, too, but there isn't any."
I wish I had a drink of well water," said Laura.
I wish I had an icicle," said Mary.
Then Laura said, "I wish I was an Indian and didn't have to wear clothes."
"Laura!" said Ma.  "And on Sunday!"
Plum Creek, Minnesota

Now that the Ingalls family is so close to town, they can go to church.  But Laura's thoughts reflect her free spirit.  While everyone inside church was listening to the preacher, she was staring out the open windows "at butterflies going where they pleased."   

Do you get the feeling that Laura wished she were a butterfly free to go where she pleased, too?


  1. The Little House books are my all time favorites ever since I started reading them at age 10. I just read a review about a book that has just come out. It is a compilation of the letters between Laura and her daughter Rose who helped her write the books. I hope to read it.

    1. Let me know the name of it. I may be interested in reading it.

    2. It's called "The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson.

  2. I love reading your personal reviews of books; they are like mini stories. How do you write such good reviews? Can you share your process of reading, recording and writing? How do you go about taking notes? Do you take notes immediately when you come across a good passage or do you just highlight them and move forward? So many questions, I know. Thanks.

    1. Hi, Kim. It is a pleasure to answer your questions.

      Here is a post I wrote three years ago about note taking: How my note taking has de-evolved. I pretty much follow this same method in taking notes while reading.

      Some books, like these Little House books , I don't write in, so I use a separate notebook to write down quotes or passages that were important to me. While I am reading, I am forming ideas about what I want to write in my post, and I am looking for supporting evidence as I read. It may be a theme or an idea or something that relates to current events.

      But usually - almost always - I write directly into my book - underlining, circling, and jotting down guide words to let me know where an important passage is.

      I hope that answers your questions. Let me know if you have others.

      ~ Ruth

    2. Thanks a bunch for your link, showing the details of your reading and writing process, as well as links to others. It really helps to see everything visually. After fruitless attempts of writing in a separate notebook - for reasons no other than plain laziness - I have found new hope and motivation by the "Ruth Method." :)

    3. Well, definitely good luck using my method. : D

  3. Can I put in my two cents worth? Often when I can't write in a book, I use post-it notes and they mark the page as well. I taught my students to do that with novels from school. I love this review.

    1. Hi, Janet,
      The post-it note is a superb idea for keeping one's book beautiful forever. But my problem is that I am lazy, I've noticed. : ( And the page of the book is like part of my brain that I want to sear my thoughts right onto. Does that make sense. I'm terrible! I've actually bought a second new copy of several books that I never want to write in again, like Jane Eyre.

  4. Can I put in my two cents worth? Often when I can't write in a book, I use post-it notes and they mark the page as well. I taught my students to do that with novels from school. I love this review.

  5. Glad to see you have your review of this posted. I am hopeful I can read this next week. I'll visit and comment after I've read it, too! :)

    1. I agree about checking to see if there were any stray grasshoppers around my chair as I read that part! Laura's remark on that hot Sunday afternoon made me literally laugh out loud as I read it. Ma's reaction was hysterical! :) I do think Laura is an independent person and perhaps was imagining herself as one of those butterflies! Thanks for linking to the Read-Along!