The overextended Little House franchise at least takes a step toward gender balance with this carefully wrought sequel to Farmer Boy (1933).
Compressing time span and age differences but otherwise sticking closely to the historical record, Williams (a pseudonym for Tui Sutherland) sends teenage Almanzo Wilder and part of his family from their comfortable New York farm to a new start in Minnesota’s Spring Valley. Cast without nuances as a sturdy, reliable lad who loves his family, horses, farming and food (usually in that order) much more than going to school or even being indoors, Almanzo doesn’t so much develop as have experiences that explain his later character in the original series—getting over being shy around girls, for instance, by suffering an infatuation with a dazzling classmate that ends precipitately when he discovers that she doesn’t like horses. Likewise, a cozy Christmas, a suspenseful box social, a relative’s (offstage) death and other events recall or presage incidents and situations in the canonical volumes. Along with physical olden-days details, the author tucks in attitudes that modern readers will (one hopes) find quaint, such as a visitor’s condescending reference to idol worship in India and a line about how “girls have to wait for boys to be brave” from Almanzo’s older sister Alice.
Safe, comfortable, respectful of its progenitors and wholesome as all get out. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 9-12)