(Masterpieces of American Literature)

As the second book of the series begins, Ma reluctantly agrees to leave the sheltering woods and house for the frontier. The family is to cross the Mississippi River in the cold, early spring, before the ice breaks. Despite her reservations, she nurtures her girls. “In firelight and candlelight she washed and combed them and dressed them warmly” for the trip. Family as the heart and source of security continues to anchor the story to come. After their wagon nearly capsizes crossing a stream, and their dog Jack is feared drowned, the isolation and vastness of the prairie emerges in stark contrast to the last safe morning at home. “Not even the faintest trace of wheels or tracks could be seen. That prairie looked as if no human eye had ever seen it before. Only the tall wild grass covered the endless empty land and a great empty sky arched over it.”

Chronologically, the prairie adventure covers a year, this time from spring to spring. However, the narrative relates far more strenuous activities, focusing on rudimentary survival. For the first five chapters, the Ingallses trek cross-country by wagon, camping. They live in a tent home while Pa builds their log house literally from the ground up. Before the house has a solid door or windows, a wolf pack surrounds the family on a full-moon night and howls and snuffles against the cabin walls until dawn. Pa digs a well so the family does not have to haul water from the creek.

In this book a...

(The entire section is 531 words.)