Saturday, March 28, 2020

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Prairie Lotus is the single best book you can read while staying home in a pandemic. Yes, it’s officially a children’s book and kids ages ten and older will adore it, but it’s so much more than “just” a book for kids. It’s a remarkable story that you’ll fall into as it takes you away from coronavirus statistics, quarantine rules, and worry about loved ones.

Prairie Lotus embeds the reader in the story of Hanna, a half Chinese, half white,14-year-old girl in the Dakota Territory in 1880. She and her white father have moved to the town of La Forge to open a dry goods store. Hanna dreams of attending school, making friends, and designing and sewing dresses. Many of La Forge’s residents don’t want their kids going to school with a “Chinaman” girl and adults and children overtly and covertly show her that they don’t want her in their town or school and that threatens Hanna’s father’s livelihood.

Hanna’s story closely mirrors that of Laura Ingalls in the Little House series purposefully. Linda Sue Park loved the books as a child yet she ultimately realized that Laura’s Ma wouldn’t have allowed Laura to become friends with someone like her. “Someone with black hair and dark eyes and skin. Someone who wasn’t white.” As a child, Park faced similar incidents of racism that Hanna faces in the book which is why those moments feel so real. Park wrote Prairie Lotus as “an attempt to reconcile my childhood love of the Little House books with my adult knowledge of their painful shortcomings.”

When I read the Little House books, I often found myself wanting to jump into them to rescue Laura. I was just as angered when children were mean to Hanna, but I never felt a need to help her as Hanna was up to every slur and imminent danger. She carefully measured her responses to slights and outright racist occurrences and she cautiously acted to diffuse or change her situation so that she didn’t need to back down yet remained safe. Hanna is the Jackie Robinson of the Dakota Territory. She's one tough character. She’s also a wonderful role model for the power of pausing to think instead of reacting. “Nevertheless, she persisted” could have been coined for her.

If you, like I, devoured and adored the Little House books, I guarantee you’ll love Prairie Lotus. If you didn’t love the Little House books, you’ll still love Hanna and Prairie Lotus. I read it straight through on a rainy, couch-bound day. I know I’ll want to reread it many times and it’s sure to become a classic. I loved Park’s Newbery Award-winning A Single Shard, but I love Hanna and Praire Lotus more.

Summing it Up: Read Prairie Lotus to escape to the Dakota Territory in 1880 and follow Hanna as she bravely stands up to fear and racism. Devour Prairie Lotus because it’s a tale of a pioneer girl who persists, that will take you away from your own problems.

Note: If you care about bookstores and their survival, order this and other books from an independent bookstore. I ordered Prairie Lotus from Mc Lean & Eakin Booksellers and it arrived almost immediately. Most bookstores offer shipping for less than a dollar. Since I've been staying in, I've also ordered and read books from Bookies and Between the Covers because I want them to survive this virus.

Rating: 5 stars

Reading Level: Ages 10 and up
Category: Diet Coke and Gummi Bears, Fiction, Pigeon Pie, Super Nutrition, Book Club

Publication date: March 3, 2020

Author Website:

What Others are Saying:
"A Masterpiece." Laurie Halse Anderson

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your recent recommendation. I've been waiting, especially with all this free time. Been following you for years.