Sunday, February 8, 2015

Book Review: Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill

As a lover of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, I scooped up a copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill not long after it came out. I had a chance to read it on my own before re-reading it to take an online class about Wilder given by the author.

While I did learn a few new things in this biography of my favorite children's author, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life is an academic look at Wilder's life and work, making it a bit dry, like Donald Zochert's Laura. The author does a fine job of showing how Wilder developed her writing and business savvy through the years.

Critical in her opinions of Rose Wilder Lane (Laura and Almanzo's only child who lived to adulthood), Hill accuses Lane of blurring the values of truth, honesty, and moral courage in her quest for publication and success and of trying to diminish her mother's reputation as a writer. At least she doesn't shy away from the complex relationship the two women carved out while they lived and worked together.

The author discusses controversies surrounding Wilder's famous children's books: such as her depiction of Native Americans and the role Lane played in the writing of her mother's books. These controversies don't come as any surprise to Laura fans. They have been addressed by others.

There is a section of historical photos between the end of Chapter 10 and the beginning of Chapter 11. I've seen these before, but they mean more to me now that I visited some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites last summer.

South Dakota is protective of Wilder's legacy considering the Ingalls family finally settled in De Smet, South Dakota and it is where Almanzo and Laura made their home during the early years of their marriage. The area is rich in prairie and Wilder history. A book such as Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life should be huge hit for the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. Thoroughly researched, Wilder fans should consider adding this to their collection. Hill's insights might not be for everyone, but if you're like me, you want to own all the books about Wilder that you can.

Series: South Dakota Biography
Paperback: 254 pages
Publisher: South Dakota State Historical Society (September 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 097779556X
ISBN-13: 978-0977795567

I purchased a copy of this book from Amazon. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Google Honors Laura Ingalls Wilder's 148th Birthday


Google is honoring the 148th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder on their homepage today. Check it out: https://www.google.com/

Happy birthday to everyone's favorite country girl.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Reflection on Friendship: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos



A Reflection on Friendship

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

Almanzo couldn't get her out of his mind. It confused him. Wasn't she just a child? Wasn't she only a young girl who had a crush on him that she would surely outgrow — once she matured?

Perhaps he had been tired when he ran to her, excited his horse Barnum had not been crippled by the reckless behavior of his younger brother, Perley Day. And yet, she felt so right nestled up against his body; her tiny frame fitting perfectly in his embrace. The impetuous kisses he placed on the top of her head signified more than mere friendship. He remembered her hair; long and flowing, reddish-brown, sparkling in the morning sun. It was still beautiful after a night without sleep.

"Hey Almanzo, ya gonna stop daydreaming and get my order?"

"What?" Almanzo felt the heat of a blush on his cheeks. "Sorry, Mr. Morgan. I'll start loadin' ya up right away."

He waved goodbye to Mr. Morgan when he was done and looked at the next order on the list. His gaze spotted Laura walking over the bridge with her siblings on the way to school. She strolled over to the platform at the Feed and Seed.

"Hi, Manly," she said with a huge smile on her face.

"Howdy, Beth." He purposely kept his tone polite, but not too friendly.

"How's Barnum doing?"

"He's fine."

She squinted her eyes. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, why do you ask?"

Laura shrugged. "I don't know, it's just you're acting kind of strange."

"Got a lot on my mind."

Just then, the school bell rang. "Gotta go. See ya, Manly."

Laura ran off towards the schoolhouse. His stare lingered after her, following her up the school steps and ending at the open door long after she had disappeared inside. She had run from the barn to the house that morning when they found out Barnum would recover. She declared she would prepare breakfast and dashed into the little house on Plum Creek. Maybe she was just happy that Barnum was okay, or perhaps she was excited to share her table with Almanzo. She had seemed young to him then; much younger than she had during the night when she carried pots of coffee out to her pa and him while they tended to Barnum's injured leg.

She was just a school girl, after all, while he was a man with a job and a farm to run. They shared a special connection from the time they met, he couldn't deny that. But he had never seen her as anything more than a young friend — until now. And still his mind played tricks on him. There were moments when she seemed like a child, playing baseball and shooting marbles in the schoolyard. Then there were other times when even as his junior she had taught him a lesson in life.

Almanzo turned his back to the schoolhouse and shuffled into the office of the Feed and Seed. He hung the clipboard on the nail sticking out of the wall. He tried to clear his mind of the thoughts floating around his head. This was nonsense. Laura was just a friend, plain and simple. They would never be anything more.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 2, 2015

LHOP Adventure Day 4

The fourth day of our LHOP Adventure was both sad and exciting. As I mentioned in my post about Day 3, we had to leave De Smet early in the morning to make it to Walnut Grove, Minnesota on time.

Not sure whose camera this is from. Photo snapped by the B&B owner.

After a couple days in De Smet, my fellow Divas and I were truly comfortable with each other. Did I mention that three of us had to sleep in one bed? While driving around town and hanging out in the parlor and dining room of the Prairie House Manor Bed and Breakfast, we learned the story of the owners and met some fellow Laura fans with whom we became fast friends. We had also explored downtown and met some nice people.



Not being a morning person, eating breakfast at 7 a.m. to be on the road by 8, was not the highlight of my adventure. But it was all worth it once we arrived in Walnut Grove.

We arrived shortly before noon and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and grounds were packed. If I didn't know how popular Laura, her books, and the Little House on the Prairie show was, I did the minute we drove up.



The town and museum staff had everything organized so well. Autograph sessions were taking place in three different locations. In the park were several activities, local authors and artists, and food vendors. Being members of Dean's Divas, we decided to head over to the area where Dean Butler was signing autographs with Lucy Lee Flippin (his TV sister, Eliza Jane Wilder) and the Greenbush twins, who played Carrie Ingalls.

Here is where it gets exciting. Though several of the Divas had met Dean before, I never had. I'll do my best to paint this picture for you, because it is one of the highlights of my trip.

The morning autograph session was just about over by the time we made it to where Dean, Lucy, Lindsay and Sidney (real names Rachel and Robyn) were signing autographs and chatting with fans. Lindsay had gotten married just a few weeks prior under the oak tree at the Ingalls farm where the show had been filmed. Her husband, Danny, was also in Walnut Grove. When he caught sight of six ladies in pink shirts with Dean's picture on the front walking up, he immediately started calling to Dean to get his attention. Dean looked in our direction and waved. Lindsay, however, got the biggest kick out the Divas in their pink shirts.

Not sure whose camera this is from, but Diva Beth and Honorary Diva Dorothy are missing from this shot.

As soon as the autograph session ended, she walked over to us and insisted upon having her picture taken with Dean's Divas--many of whom she had met before. Then Dean came over to greet us and we got pictures with Lindsay and Dean. Not only that, a multitude of complete strangers took our pictures because two LHOP stars were standing between us. Talk about making a grand entrance.

We visited the museum quickly and made it over to the park to get some food. Later that night, we attended the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, which was preceded by a Little House on the Prairie cast reunion. All the stars in attendance fielded questions from the audience. For once, I didn't ask any questions.


Thanks to Diva Lorrie for this shot.

The Divas had bought their tickets early--plus we were traveling with an Ingalls relative--so we had fabulous seats. After the cast reunion portion of the program was over, the stars sat in the audience to watch the pageant. Lucy Lee Flippin, Hersha Parady (Alice Garvey), and Radames Pera, who played John Sanderson Edwards (the love interest of Mary Ingalls) sat in our row.

Thanks to Diva Marilyn for this shot: she is also the one taking the picture.

It was late by the time the pageant was over, and we knew we had another long day of fun ahead of us, so we drove back to our motel (the worst part of the trip because the motel was disgusting) to get some shut-eye.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Win a Copy of Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen at The Book Connection



Just when you think every book has been written that has a Laura Ingalls Wilder connection, you come across something so unique and fascinating that it begs your attention. Pioneer Girl tells the story of Lee Lein, who finds herself jobless after obtaining her PhD in American literature. She heads home to a Chicago suburb to work in her mother and grandfather's cafe. The tense relationship with her mother only worsens, and then her brother disappears without a trace, leaving behind a gold brooch from her mother's past in Vietnam that was left behind by an American reporter who visited her grandfather's original cafe in 1965. Based upon a passage from the Little House books, Lee is convinced the reporter was Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Does this pin connect her family to one of America's famous pioneering legacies? 

There is so much to this novel, I simply can't state it here and keep the post at a reasonable length. You can read my full review here.

Enter for your chance to win a FREE paperback copy of Pioneer Girl here!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review: Little Author in the Big Woods by Yona Zeldis McDonough

"Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs."  This sentence opens Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the first in a series of children's books that gave middle grade readers a glimpse into the life of America's pioneer families. And for some--like myself--this would be the start of a lifelong desire to learn more about the real life of Laura, her sisters Mary, Carrie, and Grace, and her parents Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

In a style similar to the  Little House books, author Yona Zeldis McDonough has created a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder aimed toward middle grade readers that not only helps point out the fact and the fiction behind Wilder's classic children's books, but also celebrates the independent mind of the Quiner and Ingalls women along the way.

McDonough's book opens not with Wilder, but with a brief prologue discussing the life of Caroline Lake Quiner, who would one day become Caroline Ingalls. This sets the tone for the rest of this biography, as it highlights how Caroline's mother, Charlotte, believed in higher education for girls; something Ma Ingalls also wanted for her daughters.

Told in chronological order, Little Author in the Big Woods follows Wilder's life and the journeys she took not only with her family, but later with her husband Almanzo and daughter Rose. It talks about the hardships the Wilders faced as a young married couple and of their leaving De Smet, South Dakota to settle in Mansfield, Missouri. Readers learn about the building of the dream house on Rocky Ridge Farm and Wilder's early career writing for the Missouri Ruralist, before moving on to the creation of the Little House series. McDonough ends with an epilogue that discusses the longevity of Wilder's work and Michael Landon's classic television show, Little House on the Prairie, which is based upon the books. Readers are also treated to quotes from Laura Ingalls Wilder, details on some of the games that Laura played, crafts, and recipes. Also included is a list of other writings by Wilder and a list with some of the other books about her.

While I have to admit I learned little new about Laura Ingalls Wilder as a result, I believe middle grade readers will enjoy getting to know more about her real life and the independent nature of the women in the Quiner, Ingalls, and Wilder families. With a similar writing style and design to the Little House series, readers will feel right at home with this book. Jennifer Thermes did an excellent job in capturing the essence of McDonough's book and Wilder's life with her beautiful illustrations. I'm thrilled to add Little Author in the Big Woods to my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection.

 Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Series: Christy Ottaviano Books
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (September 16, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080509542X
ISBN-13: 978-0805095425

I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.