Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Prairie School, Lois Lenski, J B Lippincott Company, 1951, 196 pp

Prairie School is the eighth novel, for readers 8-12 years old, in Lois Lenski's "American Regional Series." It is a standout. Set in South Dakota, it tells of a one-room school in the Great Plains during one of the worst winters in recorded history as of 1950.

Blizzard after blizzard hits the area, temperatures are well below zero and most mechanical devices are shut down. Students can only get to school by walking or horseback and some afternoons they can't get home again. But they come to school almost every day.

Delores and Darrell are children of a cattle ranching family. Darrell is worried about their cattle and torn between keeping them from freezing and going to school. Their father is so busy dealing with his ranch and helping his friends that he forgets to bring coal for both their home and the school. When Delores gets seriously ill while staying overnight with the teacher, the drama is intense.

The non-stop action, the very real dangers and the courage of the kids all make this an exciting read. Miss Martin is the brave and resourceful school teacher who saves Delores' life. I was reminded again of how easy and relatively uneventful life is for most modern American kids. These prairie children are tough!

Prairie School would make a great winter read for both boys and girls. It is truly a shame that these books are out of print, but they can be found in libraries.

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