When most people hear the name Laura Ingalls Wilder, they think of the television show “Little House On The Prairie”, which ran from 1974 to 1983. While it was a clean family show for all ages, it offered a rather idealized version of what life was like back in the 1800s. A much more accurate description is offered in the author’s books. Although all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books are technically classified as biographical fiction, the events in the books did indeed happen.
This book covers 1874-1876, the years that Laura’s family lived outside the town of Walnut Creek, Minnesota. Her father bought land along Plum Creek from a Norwegian man named Mr. Hanson, who wanted to move farther west. It seemed like the perfect place to Pa Ingalls. The prairie soil was rich, and there were no trees that needed to be removed before planting wheat. It was within walking distance of town, so Laura and her older sister Mary could attend school for the first time.
Mount St. Helen was a beautiful mountain in the state of Washington. Despite the fact that it had been an active volcano in the 1840s and 50s, people hiked and camped at its base. But beauty can be deceiving. On March 20, 1980, the volcano began to awaken, releasing steam and ash. Many other small eruptions followed. On Sunday morning, May 18, Mount St. Helens shook violently, one side of the mountain began to slide away, and hot lava spewed forth. The smoke and ash rose 80,000 feet into the air, spreading into eleven states and two provinces in Canada. Fifty-seven people lost their lives, and hundreds of miles around the mountain were obliterated.
The author has taken the historic events of the Mount St. Helens eruptions, and added in the fictional characters of eleven-year-old Jess and her twin friends, who live in a little town at the base of the mountain. The kids enjoy exploring the woods there, and are trying to figure out if the local legend of a crazy person named Skeleton Woman is true. They experience the early warning of the first earthquakes, and bump into a geologist who warns them that the mountain is about to erupt.