Week 4: Little Blog on the Praire by Cathleen Davitt Bell

Book summary: When her mother signs the family up for Camp Frontier for the summer, Genevieve is sure she must be joking. Once she’s being fitted for her pantaloons (yikes!), Gen must face the reality – she is in the wilderness, the revival 1890s wilderness – for the next several weeks! The only things helping her keep her sanity are her sarcastic new friend Ka, the cute (did she just think”sexy”?!?!) Caleb, and…her contraband cell phone, which she uses to text her best friends back home. While she’s busy learning to milk a cow, weed the corn fields, and avoid conflict with the resident mean girl, Gen’s friends are turning her texts into a blog for class, one that goes viral in the most inopportune ways. When she discovers the camp’s secret electricity shack, Gen and the other kids start having a summer more like what they all envisioned – until they are almost caught! Upon “finding” her cell phone, the camp’s director is on the verge of holding a community meeting to determine the family’s fate, but the news truck rolls up and the campers discover they’re famous, due to Gen’s inadvertent blog! Throw in a fire that would have killed two people had it really been the 1890s, and it adds up to a summer Gen and her new friends won’t soon forget.

My impressions: I loved this book for what it is – realistic, funny fiction. Gen is a typical teen – she’s concerned about her skin, she wants to hang out with her friends, she’s starting to notice cute boys, her little brother annoys her – and she handles it with a sense of humor about herself and her world. Part of me was jealous that she got to spend her summer out in the wilderness, not worrying about makeup or clothes or shaving her legs. Of course, that may have been exactly what her mother was thinking when she picked the “vacation”! I also remember being thirteen and eyeballing the cute boy at camp and wondering if he’d ask me to dance. And encountering the mean girls who seem to dislike you for no reason at all, and who make you feel incompetent. And having my parents be (seem) completely oblivious to the fact that I didn’t want to spend my summer with them! I also enjoyed the fact that this is a g-rated story. It’s not sensational for the heavy issues or violence or sex. It’s just…normal.

Citation: Bell, C.D. (2010). Little Blog on the Prairie. New York: Bloomsbury.

Professional review:

“Imagine it is 1890. No iPods, no cell phones, no jeans or tank tops, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing. This is the life that Gen Welsh has to endure for the whole summer, since her mother has decided that the family’s vacation will be at a frontier-living fantasy camp near Laramie, WY. When they arrive, all modern conveniences are taken away, but Gen is granted her one wish: Clearasil. Secretly she has hidden her new cell phone in the product’s box, and uses it to text her friends back home. They use her messages to start a blog, which takes off and gets media attention. Meanwhile, back at camp, a first romance and a good, clean girl rivalry are bubbling among the milking of cows and clearing of forest. As the families make their way through a difficult season, the teens discover their strengths and weaknesses. This fast read is humorous and insightful, with realistic characters that are refreshingly well rounded. Bell has captured a 13-year-old’s voice, making Gen’s unlikely situation feel very real. A solid choice for collections serving tweens…”

Reynolds, A. J. (2010). [Little Blog on the Prairie]. School Library Journal56(5), 105.

Library uses: I think this book would make a great addition to a summer reading program. It would be fun to have authentic costumes the kids could wear, and they could churn butter, wash clothes by hand, and do other activities found in the book. If there was green space around my library, I would also challenge the kids to participate in a community garden, having teams participate as families to grow vegetables. Even without green space, container gardening might be an option.

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