Monday, July 28, 2008

Featured Book of the Month

I'm posting August's book of the month early because we're heading off to Cape Cod on August 8th. Donald Zochert's, Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder is the first biography I ever read about Laura and her family.

While dry from a writing perspective, it remains, to me, one of the best non-fiction accounts of Wilder's life from The Big Woods of Wisconsin to the years she shares with Almanzo and culminating with her death.

What I truly enjoy about Zochert's Laura is that it opens with a mention of Laura and The Big Woods, but then moves back in time to provide a history of the Ingalls and Quiner families. Zochert also gives the reader a brief glimpse into Almanzo's childhood; but since he is a man and Laura a young woman by the time Almanzo is introduced, not much of Almanzo's life before living in De Smet, SD is written about.

Laura Ingalls Wilder enthusiasts will recognize many of the names mentioned in this book: Reverend Edwin Alden, LaFayette Bedal, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Boast, Ida Brown, Mr. Edwards, Edward (Cap) Garland, Mr. Hanson, Genevieve Masters, Nellie Owens, and many Ingalls and Quiner relatives. You read of the "years of sunshine and shadow" as Laura and Almanzo almost die of diphtheria and then Almanzo suffers a stroke--which forever takes away his strength; the loss of their baby boy in 1889, who lives only twelve days and is buried without a name; and the kitchen fire that burns their house to the ground.

But there will be happy times at Rocky Ridge Farm: Laura writing articles for the Missouri Ruralist, the prosperity of the farm, the success of their daughter Rose, and the popularity of the Little House books--which have forever emblazoned the names of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family on many hearts. Readers will also find several appendices with important dates, information on all the Little Houses, and a discussion on the truth of the Little House books.

To end this feature of Donald Zochert's Laura, I will share Zochert's final words from this biography of a woman who changed the face of children's literature forever, and who continues to gain new fans all over the world every day:

"Laura closed her eyes. Now is now. She wished they could go on and on, forever."

New survey

Please vote in our new survey that asks which couple from the 1970's TV show Little House on the Prairie is your favorite. This poll will be opened until the end of the day on August 31, 2008. Feel free to share your reasons why they are your favorite in this thread.

And the survey says...

The majority of our readers (47%) have never listened to a Little House book on audio and (30%) of readers didn't know they were available on audio.

Audio books have advantages: they're portable, they allow you to listen while doing other things, and they're great to help pass time in the car. I only listen to books on audio in the car and only on those long rides down to North Carolina. My technology loving husband has several books on audio downloaded to his iPod and he listens to them on the rare occasion he has a few minutes of quiet time.

It is wonderful to find out that 21% of our readers have listened to a Little House book on audio, and perhaps as they become more available in libraries across the country that number will increase.

Look for our next survey...coming soon!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kent McCray Shares Some Little House Trivia

As my interview with Kent McCray progressed, we began talking about the wardrobe on the set and what certain actors took with them when the show was over. If you refer to my Q & A with Kent you'll be able to read more about it.

Here, Kent talks about the episodes of Little House on the Prairie where he played bit parts:

I have one scene that I was really proud of. My name is Grizzly Kowalski and I was in “Men will be Boys”, remember that, where Albert and Andy Garvey were sent on a trip to Sleepy Eye. Charles and Jonathan follow them along. The kids did fine, but the grownups get into trouble. The kids were at a campsite and I’m the one who shoos the kids away and ate all their food. You wouldn’t have recognized me, I had a big beard on and the whole thing.

Then I was in one of the shows where Laura and Nellie race the horses. I’m out in the wagon with Jack Lilley’s (one of our stunt coordinators) wife. She happened to be in town and we’re in the back of a wagon cheering Nellie on.

A week or two ago, I happened to turn on the TV and the episode, "The Race" was on. I caught Kent cheering Nellie on. It was so obviously him and I can't believe that I never noticed before.

Look for more of my interview with Kent McCray coming soon.

Synopsis of Episode 98. Men Will Be Boys*

Jonathan and Charles allow their boys to prove their manhood by allowing them to take a trip to Sleepy Eye by themselves. Jonathan and Charles secretly follow the boys. The boys end up making the trip with no problems at all. However, the fathers get into some embarrassing situations following their boys.

b: 13-Nov-1978 w: Don Balluck d: William F. Claxton

* Synopsis provided by

Friday, July 11, 2008

Challenges in Shooting the Little House Pilot

My conversation with Producer Kent McCray continues with our discussion about some of the challenges in filming the Little House on the Prairie Pilot.

Kent: We were getting ready to shoot The Pilot and that was quite a chore because we had bad weather. I relayed to you at a different time about the opening of Little House.

Cheryl: Yes, the freak snowstorm and what you had to do to get around the snow.*

Kent: We shot some of the other sequences in Sonora, then one morning after being in Sonora about a week, we get up at four o’clock in the morning to go to a ranch. If you look at a map it’s on Route 4 around a town called Copperopolis. It was owned by these people who had a cattle ranch and they breed cattle.

All the trucks arrived there, got through the gate, and all of a sudden—now, you have to remember that we have about 17 trucks, some of them 18-wheelers the size of a Greyhound bus—all these trucks got stuck in the mud. They just came in and sunk down to the axle. And my heart went boom.

When Michael showed up later we were trying to dig the trucks out. I got the camera truck out and I told Michael to go to the Fair Grounds and see what they could piece together on the interior set. I stayed out there and we stayed in what they called the “Honey Wagon”. None of us or the drivers got back into town for two days.

We had a friend in Sonora, Jim Opie, who was one of the greatest friends you could ever want to have. We called him at midnight and said we needed help. He had a garage and he had a tractor that used to pull big Peterbilts, so he knew big equipment. He got a hold of a man who came in around three o’clock in the morning with a big D-9 Cat, one of the biggest Caterpillars there is. He said he would get in there and pull the trucks out.

He went in there and unloaded his truck and I said, “Now, don’t go in that area.”

So he says, “Don’t worry, don’t worry.”

He went in the area I told him not to and he sank in over the treads of this Cat. Now, our friend Jim Opie was with us and he got on the phone and in the morning another Cat shows up to pull the first Cat out. So, we finally after tramping around in the mud we got all of the equipment out and sent it to the Fair Grounds. While the crew was shooting the interior set, I went out with the drivers and started making a new road to reach the exterior set of the Little House cabin. We put rocks, and we put all this stuff around it so we could stabilize the road so we could get into the area.

On the last day there was one area that we couldn’t make solid enough to get trucks through, so I called up Paramount Studios. There used to be a company here in town that used to buy up surplus equipment. I asked Russ Brown, to get a hold of these people to send us out old landing mats they used to use during WWII. These were big, heavy steel mats that were about 18 inches wide and 12 feet long, to lock them together to build a road--which is what they used during the war to go over mud in Europe and sand in the Pacific war zone.

We did shoot The Pilot and we were actually on schedule shooting The Pilot because everybody just worked very hard. They were wonderful to work with. We got it done and we brought everything to Los Angeles to be edited.

* The incident about the freak snowstorm is on audio, which I couldn't upload here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nellie Oleson Meets Laura Ingalls by Heather Williams--Book Review

Nellie Oleson Meets Laura Ingalls, written by Heather Williams, is based during the time in which On the Banks of Plum Creek, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, takes place. Nellie hates life on the prairie and yearns to move to wonderful New York City. Very little about prairie life gives Nellie satisfaction; but what does is that her family is the richest family in town and that she is the most popular girl in school. Nellie becomes upset when she is not the center of attention. Once Nellie is not the center of the attention, she becomes angry at her limelight stealer and plots revenge. In class one day, Nellie feels as though she is unjustly accused and becomes upset with her teacher, Miss Beadle. Nellie decides to fill Miss Beadle's desk drawer with disgusting insects and employs her brother Willie's help.

In the spring of the next year, a new girl comes to school. Her name is Laura Ingalls and everybody likes her better than they like Nellie, which makes Laura an enemy. Laura even has the nerve to play a different school yard game and Nellie's best friend, Christy, loves to play the new game instead of her favorite game. At supper that night, Mrs. Oleson uncharacteristically asks Nellie how school was that day. When Mrs. Oleson hears that Nellie thinks she no longer has any friends, Mrs. Oleson comes up with a plan to help the girls realize how special Nellie is. The plan is a birthday party and the party, in Nellie's mind, helps her become the most popular girl. Nellie is excited to go to school the Monday following the party but is floored to learn that that wretched Laura is going to have party. Once again Laura is the most popular girl and Nellie becomes upset. During the party Laura plays a mean trick on Nellie and Nellie wishes that something bad would happen to the Ingalls family so that they would move back east.

Later in the summer the town is plagued by grasshoppers and families are forced to moved away. Nellie discovers that her family is no long as rich as they were and that she can no longer have whatever she likes from the store. Nellie becomes quite sad, thinking that she is the cause of the grasshoppers. At school Nellie is overcome by her feelings and confesses to Miss Beadle that the grasshoppers are here because of her. Miss Beadle sets Nellie straight and tells Nellie that being a pioneer girl is not easy and that she will have to be brave and good. Nellie takes these words to heart and tries to be brave and good.

I have a little disclaimer for my above review of the book. I realize that I make Laura seem to be a bit 'bad', but this is not my intent. The book is written in the view point of Nellie as is this review.

At first I did not think that I would enjoy this book. In the first few chapters Nellie is rather bratty and I do not like reading a book where a child is bratty and gets away with it. After the first chapters, I think that Nellie does not come across this way. Overall I enjoyed the book. There were a few things I thought were interesting. I thought it was interesting that Nellie's first doll was named Laura and I thought that it was interesting that Mr. and Mrs. Oleson had different first names than they did in the tv series. I suppose that we don't know their real first names, so that any name really could've been their first name.

I think that the book was well done and that reading the book gives one insight into what may have been going through Nellie's mind and why she was the way she was.

Reviewed by: Kerissa