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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Little Blog on the Prairie* by Cathleen Davitt Bell- young adult book review  
Little Blog on the Prairie
by Cathleen Davitt Bell
Grades 7-9 288 pages Bloomsbury May 2010 Hardcover    

It’s one thing to watch Little House on the Prairie but quite another to try to live as the Ingalls did. That’s what thirteen-year-old Genevieve (“Gen”), her parents and her brother, Gavin, find out when her mother signs them up for a vacation where you live in a cabin for the entire summer, dress like they did in the Little House on the Prairie books and television series, cook using a wood stove, take care of chickens, and work in the fields behind your house weeding, raising, and harvesting crops.

To get Gen to go along, her mother bribes her with a Blackberry cell phone she can have after the vacation. Unbeknownst to her mother, though, Gen smuggles it to the camp inside a box of Clearasil. She knows it’s a wrong thing to do, but she can’t help herself, and she tells herself she won’t use it to make or receive any calls. She doesn’t want to wear the battery down and only uses it to text with at the end of each day. Little does she suspect at the time that the friend she’s texting to decides to turn her messages into a blog. Can Gen survive the summer, living the primitive life, away from the wonders of modern technology?

Gen’s mother has been a fan of both the Little House on the Prairie books and TV series since she was a young girl, and she wants to pass on her admiration for the way people living in those times did everyday things like chores to her own children, to carry on the tradition. Gen, though, has gone to soccer camp and swam with her friends at the club for the past couple of years, and she doesn’t like the idea of being away from them and trading her comfortable jeans for layers of clothing and wool socks. Even her father doesn’t especially like the idea of a vacation that costs about as much as one they could be enjoying at a resort, and one which, to him, amounts to “sharecropping” - working someone else’s land without pay for their benefit.

Getting used to the type of life the Ingalls-Wilder family lived is, at first, difficult. The cabin they’re given to live in is small; there are no panes or screens in the window frames, so mosquitoes, spiders, and other creatures can get in; they have to prime the pump to get any water; and even the chickens don’t seem to like them, attacking them whenever they step out of the cabin to get wood.

Gen has to sleep in the same bed with her eleven-year-old brother, Gavin, and - perhaps the worst indignity of all - she and her family have to use an outhouse that reeks. Also, the family that runs the place – Ron, his wife, Betsy, and daughter, Nora - tell them that bears sometimes come out of the surrounding woods; one even tried to get into the cabin through the window once.

Several other families are spending their summer vacation at the camp. They are supplied with a few basic necessities like cornmeal, salt pork in a wooden barrel, and coffee, but not much else. The families all compete, getting a weekly grade from Ron and Betsy based on how well they’re taking care of the crops and animals they’ve been assigned, participation in projects like barn raisings, and on other factors.

Other than the cell phone and thoughts of eventually returning to civilization, the only things that help Gen make it through each day are thinking about a handsome teenage boy named Caleb whose family is also there, and her growing friendship with Kate (Ka), a teen girl who wore Goth makeup when she first arrived at the camp with her family.

The problem is, Gen is fairly certain that Caleb and Nora have a romance brewing. Home-schooled Nora has acted rude and stand-offish to Gen since their arrival, and Gen believes she looks plain, at best, in the old-fashioned clothing she has to wear. She thinks that there’s no way that Caleb would be attracted to her, even if it didn’t seem as if he were Nora’s boyfriend. Gen just tries to get through each day and hope the summer passes quickly.

Almost against her will, though, Gen and her family start to get used to their new way of life. The chickens behave themselves, once regularly fed; Gen’s Mom’s cooking skill using the wood stove improve; and Gen doesn’t hack down quite as many corn stalks as she did at the beginning whenever she weeds with a hoe. When she and her family experience watching baby chicks hatch out and they vote on whether to stay at the cabin or leave, Gen surprises herself by voting to stay.

Fans of Little House on the Prairie or anyone interested in how everyday life was lived in America’s past will definitely want to read Little Blog on the Prairie. It’s often funny, and you’ll learn how people faced doing chores and just living without all the modern-day conveniences we take for granted, like electricity, indoor plumbing and television. You’ll find out if Gen ever gets together with Caleb and what happens when everyone at the camp learn that what Gen’s been texting has been made into a blog. It’s a pretty cool and interesting book about pioneer life that I highly recommend.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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