Thirteen-year-old Genevieve, or Gen, Welsh has no idea what her family is getting in to when they spend the summer at Camp Frontier in Wyoming. Gen, her parents, and her younger brother, Gavin, relenquish all their electronics, toiletries, clothing, and all other modern conveniences to live in a small cabin designed to reflect frontier life in 1890. Three other families live near them, doing the same thing, along with the camp owners and their teenage daughter, Nora. But as Gen learns to churn butter and milk a cow, she also sends texts to her friends back home on the new cell phone her parents promised her if she gives Camp Frontier a chance. One friend turns her texts into a popular blog, and the modern world meets 1890 in surprising, hilarious ways.
As you can tell by the summary, Little Blog on the Prairie isn’t exactly historical fiction. It’s set in the present day with a modern teen narrator who is used to eating pre-packaged food, playing soccer, and using consumer electronics like computers and iPods. But Gen spends some time in a re-created historical world, trying her best to live authentically (minus the texts), and the result is a book full of detailed tidbits of life on the American frontier. So, not historical fiction per se, but still a book I enjoyed and wanted to include on Damsels because it celebrates history. Gen’s mother has an idealized version of what the camp will be, until she learns just how hard it is to cook over a fire and do laundry by hand. The Welsh family comes together in ways they never imagined, but not in a sappy, unbelievable way. By looking at history through the eyes of a modern character, readers can get a real sense of how hard life was on the frontier, even more, perhaps, than by reading the Little House books.
Unlike many of the book reviews and interviews we do here, I didn’t know anything about this book or its author before I stumbled across it at the library. The title caught my attention as I wandered the teen section, and the jacket copy had me laughing from the beginning. I am so glad I did stumble on it, because it turned out to be a funny read, full of great teen energy and sarcasm that wasn’t crass or laced with references to the more unsavory aspects of modern teen life. And unlike a lot of teen books, which almost seem to be set five years ago, this one has up-to-the-minute technology that, sure, may be dated someday, but which reflect the day-to-day lives of many teens and dares to ask the question, “Just how far can we take this premise?”
Stay tuned for an interview with Cathleen Davitt Bell and a chance to win your own copy of this delightful book later this week!