As a child I was given the entire Little House on the Prairie book series. It was, after all, the late 70’s, and the TV show was a local favorite. I read a few of the books, some of them several times, but Farmer Boy always stayed in my blind spot. In some ways I’m glad it did. I’m a big believer that books come into our lives at the right time when we can fully appreciate them and, apparently, Farmer Boy needed to be appreciated in my late 40’s.
This is a stand-alone book from the rest of the Little House series, one that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about one significant year in the life of her beloved husband, Almanzo Wilder. Almanzo has just turned nine years old. He has an older brother and older sisters. Poor Almanzo feels what so many children feel when they’re the youngest, always left behind and never given the responsibilities that the older ones are given.
The book is both entertaining and poignant. The way the siblings handle their freedom when their parents leave them alone for a week is hilarious. But the majority of the book is from Almanzo’s point of view as he observes his father work around the farm and train horses, a particular talent his son greatly admires. And, like the Sarah, Plain and Tall series, the reader sees how children were put to work at a young age, never in an abuse manner, but given chores appropriate for their age. Everyone needed to pitch to keep a farm running and most children of farmers grew up to be farmers themselves.
There is a wonderful documentary on Amazon Prime Video called Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura. It was this documentary that prompted me to read the book, despite not being in the age group of its target audience. I recommend both the documentary and the book.