Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Farmer Boy Goes West by Heather Williams

Farmer Boy Goes West by Heather Williams is the story of fourteen-year-old Almanzo Wilder going West with his parents, older sister Alice, and baby brother Perley.

Mother receives a letter from her brother George, who lives in Spring Valley, Minnesota. He encourages the Wilders to pay him and his new wife a visit to see if they would like to move there.

It takes months of preparations, but once winter is over, the Wilders board a train to start their journey to Spring Valley. Royal and Eliza Jane are being left behind to watch the farm in Malone, New York. Almanzo is excited to go, but he knows he will miss his horse, Starlight.

Farmer Boy Goes West is a superb addition to the Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House legacy. Meant to serve as a sequel to Wilder's Farmer Boy, this story of a teenage Almanzo going West captures all the excitement and adventure of the original Little House books, while providing some insight into the man Laura Ingalls would eventually marry.

A healthy blend of fact and fiction, Williams captures the essence of the original Little House books, while maintaining an air of her own style. The events in this book are condensed to two years instead of the five years it actually took for the Wilders to make their move from New York to Minnesota. She also took liberties with some of the historical characters. I don't feel that had a negative impact on the story, but those who are sticklers for facts might have an issue with it. I'm hoping not, since this is a truly delightful story. The only thing that really made me stop for a second came in the second chapter, when it said, "One day in January, soon after Almanzo's fourteenth birthday..." Almanzo's birthday is in February. While Wilder did play around with the Wilder siblings' birthdays in Farmer Boy--making Almanzo closer in age to his older brother and sister--as far as I recall, she didn't change the month Almanzo was born.

As with any great story, things aren't always easy. Almanzo ends up having to attend a new school in Minnesota. He has to make new friends. He misses Starlight and Royal, maybe even his bossy older sister, Eliza Jane. He likes a girl at school, but is shy and has no idea how to get to know her. His Aunt Martha isn't very happy about jamming the Wilders into their tiny home.

There are also some neat surprises and interesting historical characters added in, but you won't know what or who those are unless you read the book.

I'm thrilled to add Farmer Boy Goes West to my Little House collection.

Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (February 14, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061242519
ISBN-13: 978-0061242519
SRP: $15.99

I purchased a copy of this book from Amazon. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reading Now: Farmer Boy Goes West by Heather Williams

Almanzo Wilder is going west! He and his family are moving all the way from their cozy farm in Malone, New York, to the bustling town of Spring Valley, Minnesota. Almanzo can’t wait to explore, but life in Spring Valley isn’t what he expected. The Wilders have to stay with relatives in a small, cramped house where Almanzo’s aunt Martha is cold and unfriendly. Almanzo longs for the freedom he had back home, and he especially misses his horse, Starlight. Even as he makes new friends at school and helps his father pick a plot of land for the family to settle on, Almanzo can’t help but wonder: Is Minnesota the right place for the Wilders? Or do they belong in New York? First introduced in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Little House book Farmer Boy, Almanzo Wilder’s adventures continue in Farmer Boy Goes West.

A couple of my Little House friends and I are reading this book together. It ends up being an online book club, where we talk about the book we're reading, and in this case, discuss how the fiction differs from the history.

We're two chapters in right now. Almanzo's parents have decided to visit Mother's brother, Uncle George, and his new wife in Spring Valley. Father wonders if they should move west too. Almanzo is excited to go, but he is sad he must leave his beloved horse, Starlight, at home. Royal and Eliza Jane will stay in New York and take care of the farm, while Father and Mother, Alice, Almanzo and little Perley make the long trip.

I'm enjoying this book so far, but it's odd to have a sequel coming so many years after the original--and by a different author. Luckily, the author is a Laura fan, so she is writing in a style that captures the essence of Laura Ingalls Wilder's work.

A full review will follow.