post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Prairie School
Author: Lois Lenski
Major Themes: Blizzards, School, South Dakota
Synopsis: The children who attend a one-room school, and their teacher and families, struggle to survive the worst winter on record.
I read a number of Lois Lenski’s books about children in various areas of the United States many years ago, when I was able to find them in the library in Michigan. Prairie School has always been one of my favorites of her books. The story is so real—you feel like you are there with the children. I found out why it was so real when we read this book together recently. The children from a small school in South Dakota wrote to her about how much they enjoyed her books. Later, she heard about the hard winter they had in 1948-49 and again in 1949-50, and wanted to tell their story, too, so she went to visit them and spent a week or two in the area experiencing the life the prairie children led. The result is this wonderful book.
Thirteen children from the area around Oak Leaf attended the little school. At first, it was terribly hot in the late summer, but soon winter arrived, and arrived with a vengeance. Soon there were blizzards, one after another. At one point, several of the children were stranded in the schoolhouse with their teacher for several days, and after they were able to get home, Delores stayed behind because she was too sick to get home. How would the local people survive these blizzards when they ran out of food and coal?
Besides the story of how the tough farmers and their families managed through a hard winter, I enjoyed the glimpses into the culture. The area described in Prairie School was settled by German families, and they still held onto some of the language and customs from the old country. At the same time, the younger generation was trying to become more and more American, which created challenges for them all.
WARNING: There was a fair amount of language in this book. Golly, heck, jeepers, criminy, and holy smoke appeared over and over. In chapter 11, page 149, the teacher knew her strength came from “a Higher Power”.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Links to buy Prairie School:
AbeBooks: View Choices on AbeBooks.com
Book Depository: Paperback
Keywords: Blizzards, School, South Dakota