Saturday, January 21, 2012

Laura Ingalls Wilder is rolling in her grave.

Somewhere along the line, this clown named T.L. Tedrow decided he should write stories about Laura Ingalls Wilder (of Little House on the Prairie fame) as a grownup. The series is called The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder and it is, in short, a whole lot of garbage. I picked the first one up at the library on a whim, because I am a huge dork and absolutely love anything related to the Little House books, and was appalled at how terrible it was. This evening, I spent a not insignificant amount of time writing a review on Amazon of said book (which certainly doesn't deserve to have this much thought dedicated to it), and since this is my blog and I can do what I want, I will now post this review for your edification and entertainment.

My review of Missouri Homestead (The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Book 1)

I picked this up at my local library expecting something like the other spin-offs of the Little House series (the Martha, Charlotte, Caroline, and Rose Years books). I grew up reading and loving the original series, and I'm also a fan of historical fiction in general. Coming from that background, I was sorely disappointed and even upset by the liberties Mr. Tedrow has taken with this material.

First off, while I understand that historical fiction is by necessity "fiction," this book completely disregards the things we *do* know about the characters. Almanzo calling Laura "Laury" instead of "Bess" is particularly jarring. Also pointless and irritating was the name change of their farm from "Rocky Ridge" to "Apple Hill." Worse yet, Tedrow seems to completely ignore nine books' worth of existing characterization and turns the thoughtful, determined yet caring Laura into a headstrong, domineering harpy. "Demanding" indoor plumbing, indeed! Almanzo is similarly flattened, being presented as little more than a dimwitted hillbilly. Their relationship is turned into a cheap sitcom caricaturization in which their interactions seem to consist entirely of bickering.

Tedrow's own characters, the "Youngun" children, are absolute fluff. The simple fact that they have rhyming names - Larry, Terry, and Sherry - should clue you in to the level of thought that went into these caricatures. (Also, "Youngun"? Not a name. Just sayin'.) He clearly added them to add easy appeal to younger children, but they end up being just the comic relief, and have no bearing on the main plot.

Even worse is the character of Maurice Springer. I'm not sure why he's there at all, honestly, as he does nothing to progress the plot. It's also problematic that, as the lone black character in the books (apart from his wife, Eula Mae, who is little more than a name on the page), he seems to exist primarily to aid and abet the Youngun children in their hijinks. Whatever that is, it's not progressive.

Speaking of the main plot, it's paper-thin. Laura is writing a column for the local newspaper (which, to Tedrow's credit, she actually did do) and gets tangled up in a plot by some unscrupulous lumbermen to make it look like a fungus is attacking trees in the area so that they can cut down more of them. The bad guys as characters have all the nuance and depth of Snidely Whiplash; even for a children's book, I was disappointed. It read more like a cheap Nancy Drew knockoff than a Little House book.

In short, if the author hadn't requisitioned the Laura Ingalls Wilder name, this book would be mediocre at best - a useless but mostly harmless piece of juvenile fluff. As it is, I honestly think it's an affront to Laura's name, and the author should be ashamed of himself for trying to ride someone else's coattails, instead of writing a story that's actually worth reading.