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Little House in the Highlands

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Overview

It's 1788 and Martha lives in a little stone house in Glencaraid, Scotland. Her father is Laird Glencaraid, which means Martha must behave like a young lady even when she would much rather run around the Scottish hillside!

The childhood adventures in the Scottish countryside of six-year-old Martha Morse, who would grow up to become the great-grandmother of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Overview

It's 1788 and Martha lives in a little stone house in Glencaraid, Scotland. Her father is Laird Glencaraid, which means Martha must behave like a young lady even when she would much rather run around the Scottish hillside!

The childhood adventures in the Scottish countryside of six-year-old Martha Morse, who would grow up to become the great-grandmother of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara Youngblood
Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series are sure to enjoy this story about Laura's great-grandmother. Martha was the daughter of a Scottish laird and the story unfolds with plenty of details about everyday life during her time in history. Meals, crafts, stories, religious beliefs, holidays, games, and family interactions are delightful and provide a great look at early Scottish family life. Wiley's book would be a great read aloud with a little practice for the Scottish brogue that would fit the story perfectly. The first book in "The Martha Years" series.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061148170
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Series: Little House Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 301,107
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Melissa Wiley, the author of the Charlotte Years and the Martha Years series, has done extensive research on early-nineteenth-century New England life. She lives in Virginia with her husband, Scott, and her daughters, Kate, Erin, and Eileen.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Friendly Valley

Loch Caraid was a small blue lake tucked into a Scottish mountain valley. On its shore were a half dozen cottages that had no names and one stately house that did. It was called the Stone House, and a little girl named Martha Morse lived there with her family many, many years ago.

The name of the valley was Glencaraid. That meant "Friendly Valley," and Loch Caraid meant "Friendly Lake." The people who lived in the valley had a story about those names. One summer evening, when it was just cool enough for a fire made of peat grass to flicker on the hearth, Martha heard the story from her mother.

Martha's three brothers and her one sister were downstairs in the kitchen begging plums from the cook. Her father was busy at his writing table. Father was laird of the estate of Glencaraid, and he had important letters to write. So just for now, Martha had Mum all to herself in the cozy corner beside the hearth of Mum and Father's big bedroom. The scratching of Father's feather pen was a pleasant accompaniment to Mum's story and the soft whirring of her spinning wheel.

"It was many hundreds of years ago," Mum was saying, "that a man named Edward MacNab caught his first glimpse of the loch from high above on the mountainside."

"MacNab!" Martha said. "But we're MacNabs!"

"Aye." Mum nodded. "That we are. You have MacNab blood on both sides, for your father's grandfather married a MacNab girl, and my own mother was of that clan. Although your name be Morse, my lass, you're more MacNab than aught else."

"Is your mother in the story?" Martha wanted to know.

Mum laughed. "Och, nay! Thishappened long years before my mother was even dreamed of, or her mother, or her mother. Now—shall I go on?"

"Aye!" Martha nodded, her long red curls bouncing on her shoulders. She scooted her stool closer to Mum so that she could hear better above the spinning wheel's hum. Beneath Mum's fingers golden-brown flax fibers twisted into one long, spider-thin thread. The peat fire glowed and crackled. Even though it was summer, the mountain wind carried a chill to the valley at night.

Mum's tale spun out above the thread. Edward MacNab, she told Martha, had been traveling for a very long time. He was bone-tired and hoped to see the smoke of a chimney in the valley below, for he had a longing to spend the night in a warm bed.

But the evening was misty and dim. All Edward could see of the valley was the dark water of the lake at the foot of the mountains. In the gloomy light it looked exactly like a mouth waiting to swallow anyone who dared climb down. Not far from the lake were two little ponds that looked just like two angry, staring eyes. Edward MacNab shuddered and gave a low whistle.

"'Tis no a friendly sort of a place, that!" he said. He spoke aloud, for he thought there was no one around to hear. But he was wrong. He was not alone.

A water fairy lived in the lake, and she had wandered onto the mountain that evening to gather mist from the rocky crags. When she saw Edward, she wrapped some shreds of mist around her so she wouldn't be seen. And she would have stayed hidden, if only he had spoken more wisely—or not at all.

"But it is ever the gift and the curse of a MacNab to speak the thoughts that pop into his mind," Mum told Martha. "Your father has it, and so do you, my bold wee lass. As soon as you could speak, you were saying things aloud that others would only dare to think. Never will I forget the first time you met auld Laird Alroch. Marched right up to him, you did, and asked if it was true he was bald as an egg under his wig!"

"But what about the water fairy?" Martha said impatiently. She had already heard the story of what she had once said to the kind old gentleman who lived on the other side of the mountains. Fairies were much more interesting.

"Well," Mum went on, "it did not sit well with the fairy to hear this stranger speaking of her loch in that way. She crept up to Edward and laid one pale hand on his shoulder. Quick as a wink she turned him to stone.

"'Not friendly, is it?' she said to Edward—for though his body was frozen in rock, he had yet the senses of a man and could hear her. Edward stared at the water fairy with his stone eyes that could not blink.

"Her skin was whiter than new-bleached linen. Her hair was the pale green of a spring leaf just opening on the twig, and it fell in ripples all the way to her feet. She had slanting green eyes and a little pointed chin. Edward MacNab thought he had never seen aught so lovely."

Martha thought to herself that the fairy must have looked like Mum, except Mum's eyes were blue and her hair was a rich golden brown instead of pale green. She wore it piled high on her head in a mass of shining waves. Her blue eyes always had a laugh peeking out of them, even now when her brows were drawn together fiercely in imitation of the water fairy's anger.

Mum's lilting voice grew cold and furious as she spoke the fairy's words. "'Who are you to judge this loch?' the water fairy said. 'You who set eyes on it for the first time not five minutes ago? I'll not have you speaking ill of my home!' Her eyes blazed like two coals burning through a white sheet. Inside his stone skin Edward MacNab quaked. He wondered if he would spend the rest of his days as a boulder on this mountain."

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Reading Group Guide

About This Guide:

For decades, Laura Ingalls has captured the hearts of young readers as the original American pioneer girl and heroine of the beloved Little House books. Now, in Little House in the Highlands, discover another remarkable pioneer girl from America's favorite family--Martha Morse, Laura's great-grandmother.

This reading group guide is for Little House in the Highlands, the first in a series of books about Martha. It is intended to provoke discussion of the issues and themes raised in Little House in the Highlands, a delightful and informative look into life in late 18th century Scotland. Readers are invited to make connections between Martha's life, Laura's life, and their own.

About The Book:

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.

Questions For Discussion:

  1. In the Little House books, Laura's father is a farmer. But Martha's father is LairdGlencariad, a Scottish aristocrat. As a laird's daughter Martha must follow specific codes of behavior. How does Martha's life, a child of an aristocrat, differ from Laura's, a child of a farmer?
  2. Adults often talk about how things have changed since they were young. Martha was born over 200 years ago. How is Martha's childhood different from yours? How is it similar?
  3. At the beginning of the story, we learn the legend of how Glencaraid, Martha's home, was named. Are there any legends of how the area where you live got its name? Who were the first people to settle there?
  4. The magical world of fairies and brownies is very important and very real to Martha and the people around her. Do you believe in magic? How important do you think magic is in today's world?
  5. Martha is very aware of the traditions a person much follow in order to avoid bad luck. For example, the Hogmanay bannocks must be baked by Martha's mother's own hands to bring good luck to all who eat them. What were some of the other traditions mentioned? Can you find any traces of these old Scottish traditions in traditions we follow today?
  6. When Martha sullies her dustgown and hides it in the guest bed, Lord Alroch does not reveal her naughtiness to her parents. Instead, he hides the dustgown in a new place and tells her where she can find it before someone else discovers it. Have you ever done something naughty that someone else has kept a secret? What does Martha's reaction to Lord Alroch's kindness tell us about her character? What does Lord Alroch's act of hiding the dustgown tell us about him?
  7. When Martha's brother, Duncan, allows Martha's beloved doll Flora to sink in the lake, she cannot forgive his carelessness. Even when her mother reminds Martha that it's not good to carry a grudge, she is unable to quickly forgive her brother. Why is Martha so upset about losing the doll? What makes her eventually forgive Duncan?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008

    This book is awesome!!

    This is like one of the best book's I've ever read!! It just captivated me after the first chapter. This book is really good and it has a lot of fairytale stories and and I just love these series!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2007

    A reviewer

    I remember getting the Little House books for Christmas (the Laura years) when I was little and loving them. And I was so happy to find out that people had written books about the earlier years, such as this one, based on Laura's great grandmother. I've had all of the series with Martha, Charlotte, Caroline, Laura, and Rose for as long as I can rememeber. They are classics and I think any little girl would love them!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2004

    Scotish Are You?

    I love this book, and the other series that connect to this lovely story. Little Martha has a mind of her own! With her father as the laird it is not easy to be perfect. If you haven't read the book, but it now!!! These series are great for children and adults!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2004

    Fantastic book!

    It was GREAT! Never have i read a better book in the little house series! I was shocked at how amusing it was! You should buy this book! You will really enjoy it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2003

    Not as good as I expected

    I bought this book because I'm a little house fan but I am only half way through the book and already I am bored with it.The characters lack something and its hard to get into the story. However, some parts are entertaining. Such as the supersticious stories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2002

    Pleasantly Surprised!

    I only bought this book because I am a long time fan of the original "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I thought perhaps the author had simply used the "Little House" theme as a springboard to write and publish a book. Wow, was I ever wrong! The author managed to write a book that was not only true to the spirit of the "Little House" series, but an excellent tale in its own right. Hats off to Melissa Wiley!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2002

    old fashion fun!!!

    Martha is so sweet, and she and her familys ways of life are so fun! What a fun life to live!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2001

    Great Book

    This book is excellent and I held a great fascination for it. The author really got me going for Scotland!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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