Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Review: Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell (Bloomsbury, 2010)

Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Eighth-grader Genevieve just wants to have a regular summer with her friends, going to the rec-center pool, to soccer camp, and hanging out and talking about cute boys. But when her mother gets the idea that the whole family should go to Camp Frontier, a "resort" in Wyoming where campers pay lots of money to faithfully re-enact the 1890's pioneer experience, Genevieve is far from thrilled. It's not just living without her I-pod, computer and lip gloss that gets her down...she also has to use an incredibly stinky outhouse, deal with killer mosquitos and attacking chickens, and horror of horrors--share a bed with her younger brother!

Her mother promises reluctant Genevieve her own cell phone at the end of the summer if she'll just cooperate for a few months with their little adventure. Little does her mother suspect that Genevieve has secretly hidden the cell phone and is using it to text her friends back home with laugh-out-loud updates on her pioneer experiences. Here's an example:

"Week 1 - Sunday. 2:27 pm. Help! I'm dressed up like an American Girl Doll minus the fashion sense. My sleeves are so tight I can't lift my arms above my head. Is this the new me?"

But when Genevieve meets the handsome Caleb, teenaged son of one of the other families at Camp Frontier, she wonders if the summer might be salvageable after all. Or is he already hooking up with Nora, the daughter of the couple who own the camp? And just when life at the camp seems to be getting more bearable (and Gen discovers she's actually good at milking their cow!)--her contraband cell phone is discovered. Will her family be voted off of Camp Frontier?

In her acknowledgments, author Cathleen Davitt Bell acknowledges her debt to the PBS series Frontier House, in which three modern families were sent to Montana to experience life in 1883. She also was clearly inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic Little House series. Bell writes that she was eight years old when she opened Little House for the first time--"and by my tenth birthday I was knitting blankets, sewing doll clothes, baking my own bread, and making architectural sketches of a camp that would transport visitors to the frontier. Thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder, for providing me with years of magic."

In addition to lacing the book with plenty of humor, Bell also demonstrates in her book some of the real rigors of frontier life, where ordinary chores like laundry took an entire day, there was no sun block or screen doors to protect from mosquitos, and bears might roam the woods! While the book does not include a formal bibliography, Bell does mention some of the sources she found most useful in researching pioneer life, particularly for women, in this time period.

This book is likely to be very popular with tween and teen girls, especially those who are or were fans of the still very popular Little House books, or who have enjoyed reruns of the TV series. For extra fun, the author has set up an actual blog that replicates the blog which plays such a key role in the story.


donnasaintcyr said...

Hi Margo,

Great reviews! This book sounds hilarious.

I see you're a library science student - congrats! I'm an old librarian myself (MLIS from LSU in 1990).

Good luck with the rest of the challenge!

Cathleen said...


Thanks for this lovely review -- you understood everything I was trying to do!

--Cathleen Bell

P.S. I was a huge historical fiction readers as a child, and can't wait to delve into the books you've reviewed for titles to read with my own kids as they get older.

Jami said...

First time hearing about this one! It's sound like a lot of fun, and the cover is cute. Thanks for the review!