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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: Little House in the Highlands by Melissa Wiley


Little House in the Highlands by Melissa Wiley
Little House: The Martha Years Book 1
Paperback, 271 pages, Unabridged
HarperTrophy
February 1999
★★★★½

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Source: Personal collection
“In Little House in the Highlands, we meet Martha Morse, a spirited six-year-old Scottish girl who will grow to be the great-grandmother of American pioneer and writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder. But, as a child, Martha’s main concern is how to cope with her life as a laird’s daughter. Martha has a restless spirit and would rather be running barefoot through the fields of heather and listening to magical tales about fairies and other Wee Folk than learning to sew like a proper young lady. 
Sprinkled with 18th-century Scottish vocabulary and filled with details of everyday life, Martha’s story will transport you to a time and place when fairies were rumored to roam the hills of Scotland and ever-curious little girls hoped to catch glimpses of them..”
This companion series to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series is perfect for young girls or those who are still young at heart. The Marta Years is a four book series covering the young years of Martha Morse, Laura’s great grandmother, in her home in Scotland. I would style this as an introduction into the series. We really get to meet Martha, her family, and are introduced to the way of life in Scotland in the 1770’s.

Martha is a spirited young girl. She would rather play outside with the boys and get dirty than stay inside practicing sewing, embroidering etc. She wants to go to school and grow up faster so that she can be like her 15 year old sister. Martha’s character is something that many young children, especially today, can relate to at least to some extent. I loved seeing the world from her point of view.

Wiley also does a fantastic job of interweaving the culture and customs of the Scots into this YA novel. We learn about tales children were told, hear mythology about fairies, brownies and magic. The book leads up to the big celebration of Hogmanay and we get involved in all of the details from how food is prepared to the games and gifts given. The language used when the characters speak to each other evokes the feel of Scottish while still being words that a young reader would be able to grasp and understand. She also includes traditional Scottish terms, for example, haggis, and is always careful to explain these terms.

For a young reader this book has just enough excitement and adventure to keep them entertained while still teaching them about the Scottish culture and building up to the traditional Little House series. For an adult reader the pages will fly by and you will be done before you know it – but it is still quite an enjoyable read!
Melissa Wiley also has written the continuation of Martha’s story in The Far Side of the Loch (book 2), Down to the Bonny Glen (book 3) and Beyond the Heather Hills (book 4) as well as the entire Charlotte Years series. You can visit Wiley’s website or blog for additional information about the book.

Please be aware that this series is currently out of print but can often be found on Ebay or Half.com - but you have to look often because they can be exorbitantly priced.  There was also an abridged version of many of these books released.  I would advise trying to check your local libraries for these books.

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