Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Cottonwood Tree “Shelfie” for “On The Way Home” Giveaway

The Cottonwood Tree blog is running a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I already own a copy of the book, but wanted to spread the news for fellow Laura fans.

You can find details at Good luck!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy 40th Anniversary to Little House on the Prairie!

Happy 40th Anniversary to Little House on the Prairie! This now classic family television series first aired on March 30, 1974. The pilot episode featured the Ingalls family (Charles, Caroline, Mary, Laura, and Carrie) leaving the Big Woods of Wisconsin and settling in Kansas. Viewers also met their neighbor, Mr. Edwards, who would be seen from time to time once the family moved to Walnut Grove in the first episode of the first season of the show.

To celebrate, there will a cast reunion in Walnut Grove this summer. For details, visit For more details on the history of the show, visit and go to the TV Adaptations tab.

Thank you to all the talented actors who brought the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder to life for her fans. While many have gone home to their Creator, we will never forget the joy these stories brought us; a joy that we now share with our children and grandchildren.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

He's Not the Right Man: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

He's Not the Right Man

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.

Laura shuffled her feet along the dry, rutted road toward school. She stared out in front of her, but she didn't see any of the goings on around town—she was too consumed with her own thoughts. Even the petty argument her brother Albert and sister Carrie were having alongside her could not pull her away from the mix of sadness and disappointment swirling around her head.

She had asked Almanzo to supper last night. But he was too busy. Out of spite, she invited his younger brother Perley Day, who was visiting while figuring out where to travel next.

Perley Day accepted. It was a very nice evening. He talked all about his leaving home at an early age and traveling the country surviving by his wits. Her pa sure seemed to like the younger Wilder boy.

But it was Almanzo that Laura wanted to spend time with.

"Right Laura," Carrie whined, tugging at her sister's sleeve.

Laura yanked her arm away, frustrated over the distraction.

"Right?" Carrie said again, her eyes eager and full of anticipation.

"Yes, you're right," Laura answered curtly.

Albert dug his heels into the ground. "You don't even know what she asked you."

Laura's eyes rested on Albert and then on Carrie. She was too angry to care what they were arguing over. "I don't have time for this. I'm going inside to study." She pounded up the steps to the schoolhouse, her dinner pail swinging violently on one arm and hitting the door as she slammed it shut behind her.

"Oh Laura," said Miss Wilder, "I didn't expect to see you so early. Isn't there a baseball game going on outside?"

Laura felt the heat of embarrassment staining her cheeks. Lifting her nose in the air she flicked her braids back, but seeing the kindness in Miss Wilder's face deflated her anger. "Well…uh…I figured I would study for the history test tomorrow."

"I'm glad to see you being so conscientious"

Miss Wilder turned to the blackboard and continued to write down the assignments. Laura slid onto the bench and opened her book, pretending to find history fascinating. She heard the smooth flow of the chalk along the blackboard as she tried to focus her thoughts away from Almanzo. Her heart raced as Laura heard the click clack of  boots strolling down the aisle.

Miss Wilder slipped into the bench in front of Laura. "So, did you have a nice evening with Perley Day?"

Why did she have to bring that up? "Yes. He told us about the many places he's been."

"He certainly has traveled far for such a young man. Perley Day had fun too. All he did was rave about your mother's cooking…and your fine company, of course." Miss Wilder touched Laura's arm. "I'm glad you finally found someone your own age."

Laura squinted, trying to figure out what her teacher was getting at. "I'm sorry Miss Wilder, but I really don't know what you mean."

Miss Wilder pursed her lips before settling her eyeglasses back on the bridge of her nose. "Well, I'm certain Almanzo doesn't know you have a crush on him."

Laura glared at her teacher, not even believing they were having this conversation. "I don't have a crush on him," she said firmly. It wasn't a lie. She loved Almanzo. It wasn't some childish crush.

Miss Wilder smiled as she leaned in closer. "I didn't mean anything bad by it, Laura. It's just…I know you're awfully fond of Almanzo."

"We're friends, Miss Wilder." Laura hoped the pounding of her heart would not give her secret away. "We like horses and farming and we like talking to each other. That's all there is to it."

Laura closed her book and stood up, not sure she could continue speaking about Almanzo as if she had no feelings for him at all. "Perley Day is nice too, but we don't have a lot to talk about. Actually, he spent most of last night talking to Pa."

"Perhaps, I misunderstood." The clock on Miss Wilder's desk chimed the hour. "Oh, look at the time." She dashed off to ring the school bell.

Laura dropped back in her seat. Her heavy sigh filled the room. Hopefully her words had been enough to keep Miss Wilder from assuming too much. The last thing she needed was Almanzo thinking she had some ridiculous schoolgirl crush on him.

Determined more than ever, Laura sat up tall in her seat. "I'm going to make Almanzo see me as a woman one day," she said out loud. She heard racing footsteps on the stairs outside. "You just wait and see. I'll show all of you."

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book Review: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

A fascinating novel of family and culture mingled with mystery and bound to the story of an American icon is what you'll find in Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen.

After obtaining her PhD in American literature, a jobless Lee Lien finds herself heading home to the Chicago suburbs to work in her mother and grandfather's café. Before long, Lee's tense relationship with her overbearing mother leaves her hoping to break away from a life she always seems drawn back to. When her older brother comes home only to quickly disappear again, he leaves behind a gold-leaf brooch from their mother's past in Vietnam that stirs up the forgotten childhood dream of an American reporter who visited her grandfather's original café in Saigon in 1965. Based upon a passage from the Little House books, Lee is convinced the reporter must have been Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Could this pin link her family to one of America's most famous pioneering legacies?

Pioneer Girl dissects the intersection of culture and family. It puts under the microscope the life of immigrants and how they assimilate into American culture. But this is only part of Lee's story: the tense relationship with her mother; knowing she is not the favored child--that is reserved for her older brother, the one who should take over the family business and care for their widowed mother in her golden years; the way Lee's mother clings to the old ways while Lee as a child struggled to fit in as a Vietnamese-American; and Lee's overwhelming desire to break away while not knowing exactly what she wants or where she belongs.

Woven into Lee's family story is the well-known tale of the Ingalls family, pioneers whose journeys were chronicled in the classic Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder that Lee enjoyed as a child. Convinced the gold-leaf brooch her mother brought to America with other treasured possessions was originally left behind by Rose Wilder Lane, Lee's search brings her through library archives and Laura Ingalls Wilder museums; and a surprise discovery leads her to San Francisco where Rose one lived in an attempt to connect past and present.

Though I believe having a love for the Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or the Little House on the Prairie television show adds a greater depth to the enjoyment of Pioneer Girl, anyone will be captivated by this masterfully told, heartrending and inspiring story of one woman's journey to find her place within her family and to boldly embrace the future. Well-drawn characters, rich descriptions, and the exploration of physical and metaphorical frontiers help to create an outstanding novel you will remember long after you've read the last word.

Highly recommended.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (February 6, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0670025097
ISBN-13: 978-0670025091

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why Can't He See It?: LHOP Inspired Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Why Can't He See It?

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.

Laura stopped as the Wilder farm came into view. Her rapid breathing reverberated in her chest as she stared down at the shaking dinner pail in her trembling hand. She patted down the stray hair that had escaped the confines of her tight braid and smoothed out her dress. Placing her hand over her heart, she breathed in deeply, trying to calm her nerves.

"Everything will be just fine," she told herself. "It's only Manly. I've talked to him dozens of times."

But this time was special. She wanted to tell Almanzo that she would start teaching Daniel Page that morning. Surely, Almanzo would now recognize how much she had changed. She had her first student, and soon she would earn her teaching certificate.

Almanzo stepped off the front porch and moseyed towards the barn. Laura snuck behind a nearby tree, hoping Manly hadn't seen her coming down the road. She watched him for a few moments from her hiding place, her eyes wide as they gazed upon his tall, lean form in the shadows of the barn. He pitched dirty hay out of a stall. Bending, digging in with the pitchfork and then tossing the soiled hay into a pile in the center of the floor, whistling while he worked.

"It's now or never," said Laura, trying to convince her body to move. Her legs felt like wooden blocks and her arms hung at her sides like thin tree branches weighed down with wet, heavy snow. Laura closed her eyes and took another deep breath. Marching with confidence, she hoped her trembling hands didn't give away the tight, nervous feeling in her stomach. "Hi Manly."

"Mornin, Beth. Whatcha doin out here so early?"

"Well…uh…I …uh."

Laura's mouth felt as dry as the road. She tried to swallow away the lump in her throat made worse by Almanzo's stare. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "Is somethin wrong Beth?" he asked.

She shook away her fears. It was the only way he would stop seeing her as a child. "Oh no, nothing's wrong. I just wanted to tell Miss Wilder that I have my first student."

"Gosh darnit, is that all." He exhaled. "By the way you were acting I thought there was an epidemic or somethin'." The right corner of his lip curled, then stopped, and then curled again. Shaking his head, he gazed down at the pile of hay and then back up to Laura. "Couldn't ya have told her that when you saw her at school on Monday?"

The handle of Laura's dinner pail rattled in her trembling hands. She tucked the sign language books under her arm and clasped the pail handle with both hands. "I was so excited, I wanted to tell her right away."

"Oh, well, she's comin' out now. If you'll excuse me, I gotta hitch up Barnum. I'm gonna meet Sara at Nellie's for breakfast and I don't wanna be late."

"Sure." Laura shuffled away, discouraged that her big news hadn't warranted a more enthusiastic response.

Miss Wilder and Laura walked towards Almanzo and his buggy as they chatted.

"Mannie, did you hear? Laura is going to be teaching Daniel Page sign language?" Miss Wilder said.

"Yeah, she told me." Almanzo checked the harness.

"Won't it be wonderful if he can communicate with others?"

"Hop in Laura," said Almanzo. "I'll give ya a ride home."

"No thanks. I'll walk. I'm going over to see Daniel now anyway."

"Mr. Page's place is on the way. I sure would like some company."

Laura shrugged. "All right." She ignored the hand he held out to her and climbed into the buggy.

Almanzo's glanced over at Eliza Jane and stepped into the buggy. Grabbing the reins he said to his sister, "I'll be back in a couple of hours."

Eliza Jane nodded. "Say hello to your parents for me, Laura."

"I will."

The buggy bounced as the wheels turned over the rocky, rutted road. Almanzo's shoulder bumped her a few times, causing the butterflies in her stomach to somersault. She leaned against the side of the buggy to avoid further contact. Why did I come all the way out here? Almanzo doesn't even care about my teaching job. How could I have been so foolish? Maybe Albert was right—Almanzo is too old for me and I should just forget him.

Laura glanced at Almanzo's profile out of the corner of her eye. His hat covered his high forehead. Most of his hair was hidden, but the ends peeked out from the rim, strands of strawberry-blond fineness that Laura wished she could touch at least once. His slender, long nose jetted out almost to a point, and his cheeks dimpled whenever he spoke.

Laura felt relieved when they finally reached the Pages' farm. She jumped out quickly. Almanzo handed Laura her books and dinner pail.

"Thanks for the ride," she said.

"Thanks for the company..though you were a bit quiet."

"I guess." Laura's boot traced a circle in the dirt.

"Ya sure nothing's wrong?"

Nothing except you not noticing I'm a woman, thought Laura. "No, I'm just excited about my first student."

"Well, good luck. I gotta run. I don't want Sara to think I forgot."

Sara—perfect, pretty, and old enough for Almanzo. Laura sighed as she thought of what would happen in town. A slim figure with white gloves and a fitted bodice on her store-bought dress standing on the porch of Nellie's. Her pretty brown hair curled and tied with a satin ribbon and decorated with flowers.

Almanzo would arrive, smiling that crooked smile that melted Laura's heart. Sara would slip her dainty hand in his larger, stronger one and they would waltz into Nellie's, sharing breakfast and conversation. Sara would smile, exposing her perfect, white teeth and Almanzo would look into her brown eyes as she cooed over his every word.

Laura wished for a magic potion to stop time so that Almanzo would wait for her to grow up. But there was no potion, and the lingering fear ached in her heart that Almanzo would be off and married before she even had her first real teaching job.

"Hullo Laura," said Mr. Page. "Daniel's inside waiting for you."

"Thanks. Is it okay if we go out to the lake later? I brought lunch with me."


Laura headed towards the house. She turned when she heard Mr. Page call her name. "When did you grow up into such a fine young woman? I swear it was only yesterday when you first came to Walnut Grove."

A faint smile turned the corners of her lips. The kind of obligatory smile you give your grandmother when she talks about you being all grown up. "I just wish Almanzo felt that way," she whispered.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.