HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Prairie School
Author: Avi (Edward Irving Wortis)
Illustrator: Bill Farnsworth
Publisher: HarperCollins, republished in 2003
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Avi (Wortis, Edward Irving). Prairie School (published in 2001 by HarperCollins). Nine-year-old Noah Bidson has moved from Maine to the Colorado prairie in the 1880s and helps his parents with all of the work. His Aunt Dora, confined to a wheelchair, comes from the East. She is going teach him how to read and sets up school for him in the sod house, but he sees no need to learn and refuses to cooperate, excusing himself to do lengthy chores. His parents are barely literate and they do all right. But they want him to learn, so his aunt tries another way and asks Noah to show her the land. He warns her that her wheelchair may make it difficult to get around, but as he pushes her along, she reads from the book in her lap and begins to tell him about all the natural things that they are experiencing. Impressed by her knowledge, the boy decides that he should learn to read and write after all.
I love reading about schools in early days when they were places for real education before the progressives got hold of them and turned them into experimentation and indoctrination centers. Prairie School, an I Can Read Book Level 4, is a good introduction to historical fiction, especially while learning about the 1880s. Avi’s clear, simple text combines with Farnsworth’s soft-edged pictures, some full-page and others half-page, to capture the intimacy of loving family relationships and the vastness of the prairie landscape. It is a joy to see how the aunt opens up a world beyond the prairies to Noah in this gentle story with a great message. It is also nice to see someone like Aunt Dora, who said that soon after her sister had gone West, a buggy that she was driving turned over and she lost the use of her legs, portrayed as a strong character. The book would make a good read aloud as well as a welcome addition to easy chapter-book collections.