Laura Ingalls Wilder would have turned 150 this year. But in my mind, there is no Laura Ingalls Wilder the grown-up writer, there is only Laura Ingalls: spritely (twinkly-eyed, like Pa), braided (blue bows only, please, except that once . . . ), long-legged (“Snipes!”), and sometimes naughty (and excellent at revenge). To me, Wilder will always be the little girl who ran barefoot through fragrant prairie grasses with her sunbonnet dangling down her back.
My introduction to Wilder’s world was the fourth book in the series, ON THE BANKS OF PLUM, CREEK and it remains my favorite. I doubt that I’m the only one who wanted to live in a dugout and eat vanity cakes (“because they are all puffed up, like vanity, with nothing solid inside”) after reading this book. A lot happens: Laura and Mary go to school for the first time; we meet Laura’s nemesis, Nellie Oleson; we learn how utterly repulsive millions, literally, of grasshoppers can be; and we begin to understand that Pa has a knack for getting the Ingalls family into precarious situations.
By the time I read FARMER BOY, the story of Laura’s future husband’s childhood, the difference between Almanzo’s dad and Pa convinced me that, although charismatic and devoted, Pa didn’t know what the hell he was doing. That said, Pa could play a mean fiddle, and the family’s endless predicaments were always met with bravery, cunning, love, and a whole lot of faith; good lessons then and now.
It must be noted that the Little House series affords many “teachable moments” regarding this country’s treatment of Native Americans and racism in general. If there weren’t a thousand other reasons to read or reread the series, that opportunity for dialogue would be enough.
For those of us who can’t ever get our fill of the Ingalls family, this crop of true and reimagined Little House–themed books for grown-ups is just what Dr. Baker ordered.
I am very sorry to be the one to break the bad news, but it turns out that Pa traded beloved bulldog Jack for ponies, and Jack never made it to the prairie. I know! Wipe your tears, because if you can handle that heartbreaking revelation, you can handle everything else in this encyclopedic, gorgeous, fully annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is everything we adult fans yearn for, and more.
When I was a child, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder . . . and I sometimes still do. I treasure every soothing Little House title in my collection. Pioneer Girl feels like the perfect book to finish out this year. I’m already picturing myself cozied up on the couch on December 26 with a cup of tea, a blanket, and a few hours to myself to read more about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life in her own words, while I unwind from all the merrymaking. Ahhhh! —Allison
I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this historical fiction novel, authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, because I didn’t want my image of sweet Ma to be distorted. Author Sarah Miller imagines the inner workings of Ma’s mind. It’s wonderful and feels completely plausible. Adults only, please, as we also get a glimpse inside of Ma’s marital bed.
This is not a Little House story, but in my review I called it the “LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRE for grown-ups.” The devastating hardships of pioneer life are laid bare in this fictional account of the treacherous journey back to Iowa with a wagonful of women brutally broken by their environment. Read the book before you see the movie.
This unexpected tale fictionalizes the long-kept secret of Wilder’s daughter Rose’s involvement in bringing her mother’s Little House series to life. A vivid exploration of a complex mother-daughter relationship that might leave you a little shattered, with more questions than answers.
Admit it, you’ve considered fully immersing yourself in “the Laura experience” and road-tripping to all the places she wrote about. Author Wendy McClure does just that. She shares all in this entertaining, at times melancholic romp through the modern-day artifacts of the real Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and weighs in on the question “Can our childhood heroes survive our adult scrutiny?”
Fans of the Little House books are usually fans of the television series, too. Melissa Gilbert, who brilliantly brought Laura Ingalls to life in our living rooms from 1974 to 1984, penned this nostalgic cookbook, full of easy-to-make, old-timey recipes, behind-the-scenes reminiscence, and personal memorabilia. It will charm any Little House fanatic.
No Little House list is complete without a mention of Laura’s adversary, Nellie Oleson. Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie in the television series and grew to love the wretched little girl she portrayed, recounts her experiences on and off the prairie with deep humor and insight. Dare I say it . . . it’s hard to hate Nellie after reading this autobiography.