Monday, March 16, 2020

MMGM- Prairie Lotus

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at 
and #IMWAYR day 
Park, Linda Sue. Prairie Lotus
March 3rd 2020 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hanna and her father leave Los Angeles after her mother is killed in racial incidents in 1880 and go to the Dakota territory to start over. Their plan is to open a dry goods store and, as Hanna hopes, a dress shop where she can work. A good friend of her father, Mr. Harris, is supportive, but Hanna is worried because her mother was half Chinese and half Korean (and raised by American missionaries), and there is no one who looks like her on the prairie. When she starts school, she keeps her sun bonnet on even though the teacher, Ms. Walters, has been welcoming. Eventually, the other students realize her ethnic background, and their parents pull them out of school. There is a meeting, but it is agreed that until they hear differently from higher ups, Hanna must be allowed to be educated. Bess Harris stays, but eventually the plan emerges to let Hanna and Bess take their final exams to graduate. That way, Hanna fulfills her promise to her mother to finish her education, and the other students can come back to school. After the shop is finished, Hanna and her father ask Bess to come and work for them as they prepare a dress to sell in the shop. Bess' mother isn't thrilled, but reluctantly visits and sees that the shop is clean and nice; she has heard that "Chinamen are dirty", but Hanna points out examples that they are not. There are some people in town who are nice, like Charlie, but when the town drunk attacks Hanna, it is HER reputation that is sullied until the women of the town are contacted, and they give their support. Hanna also meets a group of Sioux women and has a pleasant interaction with them, and she feels bad that the Native Americans are treated badly. When her father hears about her meeting, he tells her she must report the women as being away from their designated area without a pass, although Mr. Harris later says that that law is meant more for the men who might be a threat. The shop opens, and the townspeople reluctantly accept the Edmunds family and their business.
Strengths: This includes many of the details that made me love Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, and Park includes a great note that talks about her love of the books but her problems with their racist qualities. Hanna loves to sew and wants to be a dressmaker, bringing to mind Laura's job in Little Town on the Prairie (my favorite in the series). The town dynamics are realistic, and the various families have qualities that are a nod to Wilder's characters. The interactions with the Sioux (the term used at that time) women are sensitively done, keeping in mind both the feelings at the time and Hanna's knowledge that these are not right. Very well done.
Weaknesses: At one point, Hanna recalls conversations with her mother, who said she was also "half-half", and her language seemed stilted; if May had been adopted by American (sic) missionaries as a baby, her English would have been standard.
What I really think: Is Hanna's father modeled off Mr. Edwards? Because I can see him having traveled to the west coast and married a Chinese woman! Readers of Wilder's series will look for details like this, and new readers will be fascinated by the details of life on the prairie in the 1880s.

Ms. Yingling


  1. I just picked this one up at the library. I made sure to go on Saturday and get my "hold" books because I anticipate that they could decide to close at any time.

  2. This sounds like a great, racially-sensitive spin on the genre of books set in the 1800s prairie! Thanks for the excellent review!

  3. Thanks for this review. This book is already on my list because it's by Linda Sue Park, but your remarks make me want to move it up. It's on order at my local library, but that system shut down today.