The Far Side of the Loch by Melissa Wiley
Little House: The Martha Years Book 2
Papeeback, 256 pages, Unabridged
May 31, 2000
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
Source: Personal collection
“In The Far Side of Loch seven-year-old Martha is lonely and restless. The Stone House was filled with people during the holidays, but now the cousins have gone home, Martha's father is traveling, her brothers are at school, and her older sister, Grisie, is too busy brooding over her embroidery to pay any attention to Martha. Her new pet hedgehog makes things a bit more fun, and then Father comes home with some thrilling news and suddenly Martha's house is bustling with excitement
The Far Side of Loch is the second book in The Martha Years, an ongoing series about another spirited girl from America's most beloved pioneer family.”
This volume on the life Laura Ingalls Wilder’s great grandmother takes place over the course of a 2 week period when Martha’s cousins come to stay for a visit. Martha and her cousin, Rachel, are foils of each other; while Martha is a free spirit and loves to have fun and get dirty, Rachel is the perfect little lady, shy, quite and ever so clean. As you might imagine, these differences cause a great amount of drama over the 2 weeks.
There are several great themes in this book that children can relate to. One of the major events is that the mothers of all the girls are over helping get a new house ready to be moved into and the girls are all left at home. So there is the feeling of freedom and fun at first but ultimately missing their mothers by the end. Martha feels left out in this novel because she is the only one of her family members to not have seen this new house and is not told what is going on. Both of these issues are resolved by the end of the book.
As in the first book, we are treated to more traditional Scottish poems, stories, and songs as well as history of the area. We also get a glimpse at the city of Edinburg when Father comes back from the city and tells stories. I think that my favorite parts of the book are the fairytales because I have never heard anything like them before.
I don’t think I mentioned it in my review of Little House in the Highlands but there are beautiful hand drawings throughout the books. Usually they are at chapter beginnings but sometimes they are where something important begins. These images are very accurate to the descriptions of the happenings in the books, so I would imagine that this time the illustrator might have read from the book first.
This book is less of an introduction than Little House in the Highlands was and we get to spend more time learning about Martha and seeing her have fun and of course get into a little mischief. Children will have fun reading this book – and I think boys might too.
Melissa Wiley also has written the continuation of Martha’s story in Little House in the Highlands (book 1), 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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