Little Blog on the Prairie (Review)

May 27, 2010

Book cover for "Little Blog on the Prairie" by Cathleen Davitt Bell.Title: Little Blog on the Prairie

Author: Cathleen Davitt Bell

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 288

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Purchased from Chapters.ca

From the cover:

Gen’s family is more comfortable spending time apart than together. Then Gen’s mom signs them up for Camp Frontier — a vacation that promises the “thrill” of living like 1890s pioneers. Forced to give up all of her modern possessions, Gen nevertheless manages to email her friends back home about life at “Little Hell on the Prairie,” as she’s renamed the camp. It turns out frontier life isn’t without its good points — like the cute boy who lives in the next clearing. And when her friends turn her emails into a blog, Gen is happily surprised by the fanbase that springs up. But just when it seems Gen and family might pull through the summer, disaster strikes as a TV crew descends on the camp, intent on discovering the girl behind the nationwide blogging sensation—and perhaps ruining the best vacation Gen has ever had.

I went into this book expecting to read a cutesy young adult book where the characters start out by hating the “vacation”, and end up really enjoying it and learning all kinds of lessons. I was definitely not disappointed.

The blogging aspect of this book is an important part of the plot, but actually isn’t the focal point of most of the story. Most of the story has to do with Gen’s experiences at Camp Frontier, as well as those of the rest of her family and of the other families who are sharing their “vacation”. Some of these people – particularly the adults – really want to be there, while others are more of Gen’s opinion, especially the other children. Right from the start, Gen befriends a goth girl named Ka (pronounced “Kaw”), and gets on the wrong foot pretty well immediately with Nora, the daughter of the owners of the camp. Hilarity doesn’t quite ensue … but there are definitely funny moments, particularly the way that Gen distills what is going on at the camp into her short text messages to her friends back home.

I do have a couple qualms with this book. For starters, the image on the front cover is all wrong – at no point in time does Gen have access to jeans in order to wear them under her dress. I get what they’re trying to go for here by mixing the modern with the 1890s, but it’s not accurate and that bothers me. Also, the description says that Gen “emails” her friends back home – that is also not the case. (She sends them text messages from an illicit cell phone.)

The one big thing that bothered me, though, was the way that the book approached the division of labour and how feminism was treated in the novel. Work on the farms in Little Blog on the Prairie was split up in a historically accurate way, which meant that the men worked outside, while the women worked in the kitchen and then helped outside as well. There was also the whole women-wearing-skirts-and-bonnets thing that really drove me nuts, but I also understood that it was part of the historical accuracy. I guess I just would’ve liked the characters to actually have talked about this a bit, instead of just accepting it and acting like suddenly having to do traditional “women’s work” and wear dresses was no big deal. At the few points in the book where the difference between men and women were actually highlighted and paid attention, it was sort of like an afterthought – as though it was something that should be briefly mentioned, but not really an integral part of the story. I would’ve liked that struggle to play a bigger part, since I couldn’t really see the characters as being that realistic if they didn’t put up more of a fuss about it.

Other than that, though, this was a cute little book. A quick, fun read, it gave me some food for thought about modern life as we know it, and it definitely had a feel-good ending. If you think the premise is interesting and you go into it with the expectation of light-hearted fun, you’ll enjoy Little Blog on the Prairie!

Rating:

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