Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas
Published: October 2017
A life on the prairie is not all it’s cracked up to be in this middle-grade novel where one girl’s mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.
Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived—it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time. Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie—until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.
I loved this book!
It is so dang charming. As a child I devoured the ‘Little House’ books and it was so exciting to see the name Laura Ingalls on the title of a book once again. Tougas is a phenomenal storyteller. She certainly did her research and is well versed in all the ‘Little House’ details.
Charlotte Lake reminds me of Laura in many ways. Her character is stubborn, witty and charming. Charlotte and her family are nomads, constantly moving to new cities for her mother’s passion. Charlotte’s mother wants to be a published author and wants to write a book about Laura Ingalls, who was inspirational to her as a child. Charlotte is embarrassed by her mother’s obsession and frustrated at always having to start a new school and new life. She never feels like she fits in anywhere. To complicate her life more, she has a twin brother who has taken a vow of silence, since he feels his voice is not being heard in the moves, and a younger sister who is perfect. Charlotte struggles to make friends and find her niche among so many moves.
The family has now relocated to Walnut Grove, one of the places Laura Ingalls grew up. It houses a Laura Ingalls museum that hosts an essay contest each year. In a spark of brilliance, Charlotte enters in hopes of winning money to get herself a dog. As the contest deadline nears, Charlotte becomes very ill with the flu and misses over a week of school, and time to create her essay. At the last moment, she furiously scribbles out the line, “Laura Ingalls is ruining my life,” and turns that in as her essay. Her clever teacher reads this and probes Charlotte to write more and dig deeper, which she does. And so, with all the players in place…the story begins.
No spoilers 🙂
As a child who grew up loving Laura Ingalls, this was an amazing read. I really enjoyed getting to see the Little House books from the perspective of Charlotte’s mother. She is the child, like me, who grew up reading and loving these books. I liked getting to see a new generation fall in love with this series and see how the new generation questions the books. I loved the references to the books, a nice touch of nostalgia.
My only complaint – 272 pages was not enough!
Thank you, Raincoast Books for the review copy.