"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)
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.
The third day of our Little House on the Prairie adventure started out with a delicious breakfast at Prairie House Manor Bed & Breakfast in De Smet, South Dakota. We had a variety of selections to choose from and everything was hot and scrumptious. The owners made sure we had plenty of coffee and tea to start the morning off right because we knew we had a busy day.
After breakfast, we got in our cars and made our way over to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, where we took a tour that started at the Gift Shop, then moved on to the Surveryor's House, the First School of De Smet, a replica of the Brewster School, and finally to the Ingalls home on Third Street, which was just a few houses down from the Prairie House Manor Bed & Breakfast. We didn't visit the Discovery Center because it seemed geared more toward children.
We took a trip out to the Wilder Homestead after that.
We also got a chance to check out Silver Lake and the Big Slough. When I think of the Big Slough, I remember Pa seeing how thick the muskrat dens were in The Long Winter.
We spent the rest of the day walking along Calumet Avenue, getting some shopping done at the Loftus Store, and reading the historical markers along the way. This one caught my eye and made me remember how Almanzo and Cap Garland went after the wheat to keep the people living in De Smet from starving during the hard winter.
As a lover of history, I enjoyed learning more about the history behind some of the buildings. I also found it sad that some of the buildings in town were vacant. I was actually surprised how early the businesses close. Many close at 4 p.m. The public library is open until 5 p.m. The Loftus Store usually closes at five too, but has special hours during pageant weekends.
It's definitely a different culture in the Midwest than I am used to here in the Northeast. Here, we have an ATM in every bank (and there are a ton of those), plus ATM machines inside convenience stores and malls. In De Smet, I could only find an ATM in a convenience store. They only had one bank that I could see. I thought I might be able to pick up an extra memory card for the camera while I was in town, but they didn't have any and there were no big box stores nearby.
We ended the day by relaxing in the parlor of the Prairie House Manor Bed & Breakfast. After tea and coffee, and a yummy homemade snack, we went to bed early because we had to be on the road before 8:30 the next day if we wanted to arrive in Walnut Grove, Minnesota on time.
Look for more news about my LHOP adventure soon. You can go back to Days 1 and 2 by clicking here.
Magazine - 68 pages - Glossy Coated Paper - 8.5 x 11 Inches - English Language -
Published July 2014
Exclusive in-depth interviews with four actors from Little House on the Prairie: Karen Grassle (Caroline Ingalls), 14 pages; Richard Bull (Nels Oleson), 14 pages; Dabbs Greer (Reverend Alden), 14 pages; Katherine MacGregor (Harriet Oleson), 21 pages.
The interviews with Richard Bull and Dabbs Greer were made shortly before their death.
All pictures published in the magazine are courtesy of the actors. Most of them are very rare and previously unpublished.
Patrick Loubatière is a French writer, stage director and high school teacher. He is the author of the book "Little House on the Prairie from A to Z", which accompanied the complete series on DVD, in 2006. He also interviewed the actors on the bonus segments, plus created the trivia quizzes. Since 2006, he has co-starred with Alison Arngrim in France in two comedic, interactive shows based on Little House on the Prairie.
Aside from Little House, he has published interviews with most of the actors on the series Lost, NCIS, The Mentalist, Desperate Housewives, Criminal Minds, Revenge, Castle, Dallas, etc.
This one will go down in my memory book as one of my favorite vacations. I had many doubts about going on the road with a group of women I had only met online; never mind the expenses, my fear of flying, and the heartache of not seeing my husband and children for eight days. It ended up being well worth it.
I flew out about 7:15 a.m., switched planes in Detroit where I met up with my Canadian Diva friend, and then landed in Madison, Wisconsin about two hours later.
Our Wisconsin friends picked us up at the airport and we ate out for lunch.
We enjoyed a light supper in town and hit the hay so we could get on the road early. Our Austrian Diva and another Wisconsin Diva arrived after I went to bed, but they surprised us early the next morning.
We left Wisconsin before 5 a.m. Ugh! I think I forgot to tell everyone that I wasn't a morning person.
We ate breakfast at the Sparta Family Restaurant in Sparta, Wisconsin.
Crossed over into Minnesota and then into South Dakota, where we had lunch in Brookings. Ingalls fans will remember that Charles Ingalls filed on his De Smet homestead at the land office in Brookings.
We arrived at the Prairie House Manor Bed & Breakfast in the afternoon. It's a great place to stay and its owners are lovely people. Ingalls fans will remember this historic home belonged to Banker Ruth in The Long Winter.
We walked along Calumet Avenue and visited the Loftus Store, which Laura also wrote about in her books. I bought some lovely note cards there with a picture of the famous painting, "Good Morning, Mrs. Ingalls."
We also visited the cemetery where some of the Ingalls family members are buried. There are also other people Ingalls fans would know from the books buried there.
Our final stop was to the Ingalls Homestead. You can actually camp out there in a covered wagon, but none of us was up to that.
After a quick supper, we headed back to Prairie House Manor for a night of relaxation and good conversation. The next day of our trip was going to be busy, so we wanted to make sure we were well rested.
Back home from the most amazing trip I've ever taken. Lots of fun with friends. And I finally got to meet Dean Butler! What a wonderful guy. Lindsey Rachel Greenbush (one of the twins who played Carrie Ingalls) got a huge kick out of Dean's Divas arriving in Walnut Grove. She asked to be an honorary Diva. This picture was taken on Friday soon after the Divas drove into Walnut Grove.
I'll share more memories from my eight-day trip that brought me through parts of Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa over the coming days. Right now, it's about 3 a.m. and this Diva is tired.
I'll be headed out on a Laura Ingalls Wilder adventure next Tuesday. I am meeting a group of my friends--including a relative of Laura's and one of Almanzo's--in Wisconsin. We'll be traveling around to some LIW sites before heading over to Walnut Grove, Minnesota for the Wilder Pageant and Little House Cast Reunion July 25 - 27. We'll visit a couple of other places before I head home on Tuesday, July 29.
I AM SO EXCITED! I have never done anything like this before. I haven't even been on my own overnight since the girls were born. I'm nervous about flying alone, but I'll meet one of my longtime chums in Detroit before getting on another flight to Wisconsin and we're flying out the same day to go back home too.
Here are the results from our most recent survey. When asked which season of Little House on the Prairie is your favorite, Season 1 easily took the top slot, followed closely by Season 6. The rest in order are:
Seasons 5 & 10 tied for the next slot.
Seasons 2, 7, & 9 tied for the next slot.
Season 4 came in last.
It's always interesting to see how these things turn out. Hope you enjoyed our survey.