Bookish in the Mitten

Book reviews, book recommendations, book talk, and a little knitting

There are so many interesting resources online about Laura Ingalls Wilder that I will not try to incorporate them into the narrative (with one exception); see a list of links at the end of the post.

Throughout a good portion of my childhood I read and re-read most of the “Little House” series, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fictionalized memoirs of her childhood and young adulthood on the prairie.  They fascinated me – the hard work, interesting food, fiddle playing, parties, adventures, blizzards, privation, tornado (just one tornado) and that stinking Nellie Oleson. Given my excellent childhood skill of skimming the “boring parts” with absolutely no retention, I’m sure I missed some interesting historical context, and I think I might like to read them again.  

These books are products of both their own time (1870s-80s) and the time they were written (1930s -40s).  There are, occasionally, both unfavorable and favorable references to Native Americans as well as an actual minstrel show.  In fact, a literary award named after Wilder was renamed due to the racism in her books.  You can read one writer’s take HERE.  If you choose to read these books aloud with your children, you could familiarize yourself with the content first with a quick skim so you can be ready to discuss.

The first editions of the series were illustrated by Caldecott winner Helen Sewell. Her depictions of life on the prairie are stylized, evocative of folk art, and the covers are – not pleasant.  The editions most of us read were illustrated with lovely line drawings by Garth Williams.  Both illustrators seemed to stay true to Wilder’s description of Pa, in particular. I mention this because I was surprised at the choice of baby-faced Michael Landon to pay Pa in the TV series.  

Here is the series in order of publication date:

Little House in the Big Woods (1932)

Farmer Boy (1933 – main character is Almanzo Wilder, Laura’s husband, as a child)

Little House on the Prairie (1935)

On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937)

By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939)

The Long Winter (1940)

Little Town on the Prairie (1941)

These Happy Golden Years (1943)

The First Four Years (1971, published posthumously when the book was found after the author’s death. It was published unedited, exactly as it was written.)

Resources

This Wikipedia article is excellent; if you hover over the title of each individual book listed, you will see a preview including each (creepy) first edition cover. Click on those links if you want to read more, but find the main article HERE.

Visit the Little House on the Prairie Museum HERE. You can find a large selection of LIW- related titles in their inventory, but I know the list is not exhaustive. (I recall reading a selection of articles she wrote on housekeeping in her later life, published in a magazine or newspaper – but I can’t find that online.)

There are dozens of resources on Helen Sewell, but you can start HERE.  Do some exploring of images of her illustrations; you will recognize them.

Read more about Garth Williams HERE. He also illustrated Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and books by Margaret Wise Brown. He almost warrants his own post! Definitely explore this link.

I reference this link in the body of the post but will repeat it here; the article is called “Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder While Black.” https://www.writersdigest.com/be-inspired/reading-laura-ingalls-wilder-while-black

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