Review of Prairie Lotus

Prairie Lotus
by Linda Sue Park
Middle School   Clarion    260 pp.    g
3/20    978-1-328-78150-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-33083-7    $9.99

In 1880, fourteen-year-old Hanna and her father settle in the (fictional) town of LaForge, in Dakota Territory. Papa is white; Hanna’s late mother immigrated from China and had both Chinese and Korean ancestry. LaForge is modeled on De Smet, South Dakota, where four of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books took place. Park’s novel is clearly in conversation with that series, from Hanna’s friendlier interactions with, and more thoughtful views about, members of the Ihanktonwan tribe to racist attitudes among LaForge’s townspeople, who object to Hanna’s presence in the school and blame her after a local man assaults her. But this novel stands on its own, with a vividly drawn protagonist in self-reliant Hanna, who has plenty of complex relationships: with her stubborn father, with her much-missed mother, with her classmate Bess, with a well-meaning but conflict-averse teacher. An author’s note explains the “fancy mental gymnastics” Park, who is Korean American and loved Wilder’s series growing up, needed to do as a child in order to imagine herself as Laura’s best friend, and describes the author’s ongoing conflict with the books’ problematic elements.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She was a 2019-2020 member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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