While browsing the YA section of our library recently, I came across The Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell. The premise sounded so cute, I couldn’t resist. Thirteen-year-old Genevieve Walsh anticipated a summer of soccer with her friends until she learned her mother had signed the family up for Camp Frontier– a living history pioneer camp. Gen, her younger brother, and her parents were going back to the 1890's for the summer. No modern possessions allowed. They had to live in a one-room house, feed themselves by farming, and earn points by improving the land in some way over the course of their stay. To a modern teen, this is no vacation but a sadistic punishment inflicted by her mother. Gen finds a way around the rules, inadvertently launching a blog about her experiences that becomes a raging success.
The idea for the book appealed to me on a couple of levels.
Like Gen’s mom, I harbor a fantasy/desire to live like a pioneer for a finite period of time, just to prove to myself that I can. Except unlike Gen’s mom, deep down I know I can’t!
Back to The Little Blog on the Prairie: Gen is a normal kid. She can be uncooperative and bratty, but she’s thirteen. At that age, the little injustices inflicted by one’s parents or siblings naturally lead to a certain passive-aggressiveness. She doesn’t want to be on this bizarre summer family vacation, she wants to be at soccer camp with her friends. And while I have a certain sympathy for the mom, I imagine a tween/teen reader would be whole-heartedly on Gen’s side. What on earth has her mom done to her? It isn’t just Gen. Dad is miserable too. So if Gen manages to bend the rules (no electronic gadgets) in order to keep in contact with her friends on the outside, and then they post her complaints as a blog– well, it’s not like she’s done anything criminal. If her complaints are amusing, sometimes snarky, particularly regarding her archenemy, Nora, the daughter of the camp owners, well, it doesn’t mean Gen is a bad person. Right? Nora is mean and deserves it. But Gen learns that the consequences of her actions can be enormous.
While the reader can probably see where this will all head in terms of character growth and eventual plot outcome, there are twists and turns and surprises that keep it all very readable and entertaining. It’s nice to see the protagonist develop true insight into her own behavior as well as empathy for others as she matures. It’s interesting to see how the family reacts when its very foundation is tested.
And, it’s fun to watch everyone struggling with life in the 1800s.
This is good clean family drama. Good for tweens and younger teens. And if you’ve ever wanted to go back in time and live Laura’s life– Little Blog on the Prairie may make you reconsider.