Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Christmas They Never Forgot--Reflections on a Favorite Episode


Christmas always inspires me to share my thoughts, and this episode of Little House on the Prairie is a favorite of mine.

While the show ran for nine seasons plus three additional movies, we didn't see episodes surrounding Christmas often--and I don't think the last Christmas episode (Bless All the Dear Children) had any snow in it. Most likely because the show was filmed in California, and based upon my conversation with Kent McCray, it seems to have taken a great deal of effort to create those snowy scenes. (Rolled up sleeves around Christmas in Minnesota?)




That the little house on Plum Creek got blasted with so much snow that all their guests had to spend the night, is just one of the many things that makes this episode so special, as does the wonderful music that Michael Landon decided to use.


This is the last time that we see every member of the Ingalls clan together. By this time Mary and Adam are living in New York, and Hester Sue brings them to Walnut Grove as a surprise. We don't see Mary and Adam again, something that always makes me sad, as I wish they could have returned for the final movie.


The family sits around telling stories of Christmases past. Caroline, Almanzo, Laura and Hester Sue each share a bit of themselves with the entire group. We learn about how Caroline came to accept Papa Holbrook, and the Christmas that Almanzo almost stopped believing in Santa Claus. Laura shares the memory of Mr. Edwards coming for Christmas dinner when the Ingalls family lived in their little cabin in Kansas, and Hester Sue shares a Christmas as a black child from the south living during the Civil War.

Each story is touching and every story speaks volumes of what we have come to love about Little House on the Prairie.

One thing that sticks out to me in this episode is how much a part of the cast Dean Butler and his character Almanzo have become by this point. Now, I know I am slightly biased because I am a huge fan of Dean's, but Charles and Almanzo have many wonderful scenes together in this episode. I especially enjoy when Almanzo and Charles are about to go off to fix the barn door and Almanzo says, "Let's go Pop", to which Charles replies, "Follow me son." A far cry from their relationship at the beginning, where Charles punched the daylights out of Almanzo for possibly kissing his young daughter. Watching Charles's feelings toward Almanzo change is one of the best parts of the series for me. That's why I've written several fan fiction stories that involve these two men--including a new one that I am in the process of editing.

Since so many of you have voted for this episode as your favorite, I would love to read your comments on what is so special about this episode to you.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December Featured Books of the Month


Back in the early 90's--when I didn't have gray hair--I picked up an eight book set by T.L. Tedrow called The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder.I did not know at the time that this series was considered controversial. That Roger Lea MacBride, the heir of Rose Wilder Lane, and Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer William Anderson had come out against the books. All I remember from those days is that I was totally captivated by these eight books that provided a fictional life for the famous children's author and her family.

Released in 1992 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, according to this article, Tedrow was also trying to put together a television deal to produce a series based upon the books.

I haven't read these books since I first bought them; and I wonder now that I have taken an interest in the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family, if I would enjoy these books as much as I did when they first came out over 15 years ago.

I am featuring these books in December for a couple of reasons: I would like to know how many people own them or have read them, and what your opinion of them is regardless of whether you've read them or not. Is this pure historical fiction? Is it a rip-off of the original books? After hearing about them would you read them?

Here is the list of books in order:

Missouri Homestead
Children of Promise
Good Neighbors
Home to the Prairie
The World's Fair
Mountain Miracle
The Great Debate
Land of Promise


Wikipedia offers a synopsis of each book in the series and briefly mentions the controversy surrounding the books. Amazon has a few sellers who offer a boxed set of books 1 - 4, and the full set is available on eBay, as are single copies of each book.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Favorite Christmas Episode Survey



Well, it's back. I have just posted the survey asking what your favorite Little House on the Prairie Christmas episode is. Though I know I am totally biased, mine will always be A Christmas They Never Forgot. I enjoy hearing about Almanzo's, Caroline's, and Hester Sue's childhoods, and listening to Laura retell the story of their Christmas in Kansas brings back fond memories. It's also nice to have Adam and Mary back in Walnut Grove again, though I wish we had seen more of them.

Make sure you vote for your favorite in our sidebar. I also changed the voice over on the AudioPal so give it a listen.

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Laura and Almanzo Story at Fanfiction.net


I believe most of you know that I write Little House fanfiction stories. In the beginning, I tried my best to mix real life and the show, but at some point fans of these stories requested I fill in the gaps in Laura and Almanzo's romance that inevitably are created by the limits of television and the need to have a one-hour storyline and provide a season's worth of episodes that focus on more than two characters.

I have taken my task seriously and now have written at least sixty stories based upon Little House on the Prairie, the majority of which use the show's characters as inspiration. Whenever I write a story featuring Laura and Almanzo, I have to admit that I visualize Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler acting it out. This helps me to create stories that, for the most part, stay true to the characters and the end product is a better story because I can include Beth's and Manly's mannerisms and facial expressions from watching episodes over and again.

My latest story is titled, Finding A Way. It takes places during Season 9, after the episode A Child With No Name, which is where Baby Boy Wilder is born and dies.

One of the limits of television is that you can't get inside a character's head visually. So much can take place in a character's mind--and often does--which is why I feel that Stephen King's books don't always make it to film well. King is the master of internal thought and often uses dreams to relay what his characters are thinking and experiencing. The advantage to this limitation, however, is that viewers who wanted to get inside those characters' heads have created stories that hopefully honor the essence of the show and its characters, and help to fill in those missing elements. That is what I try to do with my fanfiction.

In Finding A Way, Laura struggles to move on even though six months have passed since Baby Boy Wilder's death. At the end of A Child With No Name, a repentant Laura announces happily to Doc Baker that she and Almanzo are thinking of having another baby. As a mother, that doesn't seem possible to me. Laura's grief over the loss of her son wouldn't disappear just because Doc Baker ended up saving Rose's life. But again, the episode is only one hour long, and Landon and his writers certainly came up with the best way to close out the episode by having Laura see the light, making the way for Doc Baker stay in Walnut Grove.

What I attempted to do with this story is show that Laura and Almanzo's marriage and life didn't just go back to normal. There was a time when Laura grieved deeply for her son and was afraid of getting pregnant again. Almanzo struggled too, but in a different way. As he tried to get closer to Laura, she moved further away from him. He felt lonely and isolated, much as he did when he thought he would never walk again (Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow).

I'm not sure how others will feel about this story, but I am truly thrilled with how it turned out. If you are interested in reading it, you can find it at www.fanfiction.net.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back to School - Season 6



Now that Labor Day has come and almost gone, thoughts turn to school days. My girls actually started last week, but they don't do much during that first week. Homework will start tomorrow--UGH--and the kids will really start getting down to work.

It probably isn't surprising, then, that my thoughts also turned to the first episode of Season 6 - Back to School. Michael Landon began Little House on the Prairie that year (Sept. 1979) with a two-part episode that introduced new characters: Eliza Jane Wilder and her handsome brother, Almanzo. Eliza Jane became the new school teacher and her brother Almanzo got a job working at the Feed and Seed, in addition to taking care of the Wilder farm.

The introduction of Almanzo was important for viewers because fans of the books knew that this character would be the man Laura Ingalls ended up marrying. I can imagine the pressure that put on Michael, and on Dean Butler, who portrayed Almanzo Wilder.



As we discussed last month--though most of that conversation took place at Facebook--the romance that Michael Landon and his writers created is very different from what fans of the books knew. In the books, it is Almanzo who pursues Laura. On the show, however, Melissa Gilbert's character, Laura, had a huge crush on Almanzo from the moment she saw him. Caught somewhere between childhood and womanhood, a growing and changing Laura hoped and prayed that Almanzo would see her as older than she was. This would be the way their relationship played out through most of Season 6, until the episode Sweet Sixteen where Almanzo finally does realize that Laura isn't a little girl anymore.


But I'm moving ahead too quickly; in Back to School we also see Nellie Oleson graduate, leaving the Walnut Grove school, and Laura, behind. This must have been hard on poor Laura, who is already trying to prove to her pa and Almanzo that she's no longer a child. And what makes matters worse is that Nellie thinks Almanzo is dreamy too; not to mention that Harriet is playing matchmaker for her daughter by inviting Zaldamo--as she calls him--to dinner at Nellie's Restaurant--an unexpected and unwanted graduation gift from Nellie's parents.

What results from this matchmaking attempt is one of the best Laura and Nellie fights of the series. Even though it seems that Nellie has it all over Laura, it's usually Nellie who is miserable in the end; and this episode is no different.

The important dinner between Nellie and Almanzo is ruined when Laura agrees to cook for them because neither Nellie nor her mother can cook anything. But Nellie doesn't want Almanzo to know she can't cook, so Laura is kept hidden in the kitchen, which gives her ample time to shake cayenne pepper on the chicken instead of cinammon. One bite of that chicken and Almanzo and Nellie are running for the pump to drink like fish and cool off their burning tongues.



Not one to take losing lightly, Nellie vows revenge; and boy does she get it. Convinced that the only way her father and Almanzo will see her as a woman, Laura decides to take her final exam so that she can graduate. Problem is, Charles has been out of work after being hit by a mill stone, and they can't afford to buy Laura the books she needs to study. Determined to pass that test, Laura begs Nellie to let her borrow her books--which Nellie does. Now, even though Miss Wilder has told Laura that the test will be mostly history, Nellie manages to convince Laura that Miss Wilder is lying to protect her job. Can't have any young, new teachers stealing her school, you know. So, guess what? Laura doesn't pass the test and she is more than upset.

A very satisfied Nellie stumbles upon a crying Laura on her way back from delivering cookies to Almanzo at the farm. Gee, there might have been a bit more history on the test than she remembered. You think! So, Laura proceeds to give Nellie more than a piece of her mind.



Don't you know that Almanzo picks this very moment to be driving back into town and comes upon Nellie and Laura in the watering hole. He pulls Laura off Nellie and brings her back to his place to get washed up. He gives her a robe and something to warm her up, then gets her to realize that not passing the test isn't the end of the world. And what does he get for his gallant behavior? Almanzo gets punched by Charles, who sure isn't happy to see Laura mooning all over the much older Almanzo while dressed in his robe. Seems an angry Nellie finally dragged her muddy body back to town and told Charles that she saw Laura and Almanzo kissing. We all remember what kind of temper Charles has, right?

Everything ends up okay though. Pa apologizes to Half-pint for the misunderstanding and they both blame Nellie for everything that happened. Then Laura makes them a picnic lunch and they go fishing.


Back to School is one of my favorite Little House episodes. It's where my crush on Dean Butler began. We see Laura struggling in that nasty place called adolescence--which we can all relate to; Pa continues his battle against being okay with his Half-pint growing up; and Nellie and Laura still fight from time to time to make things interesting. This is classic Little House at its best; and it still amazes me that after all these years, new generations of fans are discovering and enjoying the show that I grew up with.

Happy Labor Day!



When the Ingalls family was traveling in their covered wagon from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to Independence, Kansas there was no such thing as Labor Day. Though when you consider the sunup to sundown effort put in by pioneering families, you have to think they sure needed a day off. Perhaps that's part of why keeping the Lord's Day sacred was so important--it not only gave them time to compose their souls, but also to rest their weary bodies.

Charles Ingalls was a farmer--among other things--so the Industrial Revolution might not have meant much to him; but American workers demanded reprieve from long hours and poor working conditions. And thus, the first Labor Day parade was held in September 1882, where workers vocalized the issues they had with employers in the hopes that it would make a difference.

It would be over a decade before Labor Day became an official holiday, but American workers, like the pioneers before them, made their mark on America. Today we celebrate those contributions.

For a brief history of Labor Day, visit history.com.

Happy Labor Day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Survey



The latest survey is tied into the topic we discuss in this post.

Laura and Almanzo's romance was portrayed very differently in the show than in the books. We would love to know which version you prefer. Take our survey and feel free to leave additional comments here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Survey Results



Not surprisingly, the majority of our readers would like to see Dean Butler play a part in Little House on the Prairie: The Musical. Twenty percent, however, only wanted him to be part of the production if his performance would be close enough for them to see the show. But when 7% of our readers responded "Dean who?" I really began to get worried. Out of all the cast members I talk about Dean the most, so where have these people been hiding all this time. LOL!

I've been away for a couple of weeks, but Dean, the actor who portrayed Almanzo Wilder on Little House on the Prairie for those 7% who don't know, was in Green Bay recently, along with Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer William Anderson to celebrate Laura Ingalls Wilder Day at Heritage Hill State Historical Park. Beth Ingalls-Leisses, one of Charles Ingalls's relatives, and a friend of mine, met Dean and Bill while they were there.

I want to thank my friend Lorrie for thinking of me while she spent time rubbing elbows with Dean and Bill. This week's mail brought me an autographed copy of William Anderson's The Story of the Ingalls and autographed greettings from Dean. I am extremely happy!

Look for a new survey coming soon!

Laura and Almanzo's Romance - The Books Versus The Series


This topic has been on my mind for quite a while, so I figured I would open this up for some discussion to get more thoughts on it.

The developing romance and subsequent marriage between Laura and Almanzo was portrayed very differently on the Little House on the Prairie (LHOP) television series than from what Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in her books.

While Almanzo was the gentle pursuer in the books, it was a young Laura who was pining away for Almanzo on Little House. Now, we realize that Michael Landon had to think of his viewers when he developed Laura and Almanzo's romance for TV. The show's audience had been watching Melissa Gilbert grow up for five seasons; so it would be difficult for them to see a much older man going after Laura in the show. It would almost seem creepy. Take into account the real-life age difference between Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler, who portrayed Almanzo in the show, and once again, Landon had to be very careful with how he presented their budding romance.


In the books, we are also treated to more coverage of their courtship than we are in the show. Most of Season 6 we watch Laura trying to get Almanzo to notice her. That changes starting with the episode Wilder and Wilder. In one episode (Sweet Sixteen) Almanzo finally notices how much Laura has matured; in the next one he proposes (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not); and in the next episode they are married (Laura Ingalls Wilder).

Fans of the books, however, are introduced to Almanzo Wilder in The Long Winter, when he and Cap Garland travel many miles to buy seed wheat to save the town of De Smet from starvation. We see the beginning of Almanzo and Laura's romance in Little Town on the Prairie, and their courtship continues and they get married in These Happy Golden Years. Laura's impressions of Almanzo are very different in the beginning in the books, versus her being so taken with him in the show. If I remember correctly, Laura actually had her eye on Cap Garland.

While I am one of those fans who sees the show and the books as totally different entites, and appreciates how they both celebrate Laura's legacy, I always wished the show dedicated more time to Laura and Almanzo's courtship. Laura's pining away for Almanzo and how she occasionally embarassed herself because of it didn't always sit well with me, but I believe I understand what Landon was trying to accomplish.

How about you? Which version of Laura and Almanzo's romance do you prefer? What changes would you have made to the television version if you had the power? Or are both versions perfect the way they are?

Friday, July 31, 2009

August Book of the Month


I'm posting this early because we'll be off to the Outer Banks of North Carolina this evening and we won't be back until mid-August.

When we asked our readers, which book of the Little House series was their favorite, The Happy Golden Years won by a landslide.

Not quite sixteen, Laura takes her first teaching job at the Brewster School twelve miles away from town. She had never been away from home before, and from the opening illustration to the opening paragraphs of the first chapter, we can see and read the apprehension Laura experienced.

"...Pa did not not say anything.

Sitting beside him on the board laid across the bobsled, Laura did not say anything, either. There was nothing to say. She was on her way to teach school.

Only yesterday she was a schoolgirl; now she was a schoolteacher. This had happened so suddenly."



Those who have read this book remember how homesick Laura was while she lived with Mr. and Mrs. Brewster and taught school. Most of her students were taller than she. And who could forget Laura's excitement at going home when Almanzo arrived to pick her up in his sleigh, or her dismay when she thought Almanzo would no longer come for her once she told him she would not be going riding with him after she returned home for good. But Almanzo continues driving her back and forth to the Brewster settlement, encouraging her because he knows how much she dreads going there.

Mary comes home from college in The Happy Golden Years, and we get to see and read what a young lady she has become and how many things she has accomplished while she was away.

Winter turns to spring and spring to summer. Almanzo and Laura go riding in his buggy and they attend singing school. But perhaps the best part of this book is Almanzo's surprise return on Christmas Eve. By this time, Almanzo and Laura are engaged to be married, and Almanzo, along with his brother Royal, had planned to spend the winter with his folks.

Late on Christmas Eve the snow had begun to fall again and when there was a knock at the door. Laura was struck speechless when she saw Almanzo on the other side. Almanzo comes bearing gifts and admits he didn't want to stay away so long.

Almanzo and Laura marry and settle into their "little gray home". The book ends with two verses from a song that Pa's fiddle often played:

"Golden years, are passing by,
These happy, golden years."

It's nice to watch Almanzo and Laura's relationship develop in this book. We see a bit of the hero in Almanzo from The Long Winter, and there is nothing better than a romantic and unexpected return.

Preliminary Survey Results



While there are still 11 days left to vote, not surprisingly it looks like our readers would like to see Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder, NBC) performing in the Little House on the Prairie Musical.

A couple of my friends plan to see Dean this weekend while he and Bill Anderson are at Heritage Hill State Historical Park, a living history museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Here's a short article from the Green Bay Press Gazette about Dean's appearance.

Hopefully my chums will share some photos and their experiences with us.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Kids Book Blog


While this is not Laura related, it is children's book related, so I feel I can talk about it here. I've been blogging for a few years now, and my book blog, The Book Connection is doing very well.

What I've noticed lately is that I am reviewing an increasing number of children's, Middle Grade, Young Adult and teen fiction books. I decided to branch those reviews off onto their own site. The Kids Book Connection is now up and running.

I am in the process of copying over some of the reviews that appear at The Book Connection. Once that is done, I will no longer be posting children's book reviews there. All of them will be at my new kid's book blog.

I hope you'll stop by The Kids Book Connection and add us to your blogroll.

Thanks!

All my best,

Cheryl

Note: Thumbnail comes from Mrs. Harper's Kindergarten website.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July Featured Book of the Month



Dean Butler brought the Almanzo Wilder from Laura's books to life in Season 6 of Little House on the Prairie. We watched while Laura pined away for Almanzo, a man several years her senior. It would take a new job and Laura's newfound maturity to turn Almanzo's head; but as soon as it happened, their romance flew by, Laura and Almanzo married, and they were busy building a life of their own in Walnut Grove.

For this Little House fan, Dean's portrayal of Almanzo on the show, was the first time any thought had been given to the man with the unique name. But long-time fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books had met Almanzo James Wilder many years before, in the one and only book in the Little House series about Almanzo's childhood, Farmer Boy.


Almanzo is not quite nine years old when we meet him, trudging down the road to school with his older brother and two older sisters, bundled against the harsh New York winter weather in clothes that Mother had made.

We learn a great deal about Almanzo and his family from Farmer Boy: daily life for Almanzo on the farm, his love of horses, his tremendous appetite, the lessons he learned from his parents, and how they celebrated holidays and special occasions.

In this installment you get the feeling of love and importance of family that is prevelant in all the Little House books; and the reader is treated to Christmas with the cousins at the Wilder's house. You'll also learn about Almanzo's trip to the County Fair, a fair that is still held to this day. But it is Father's gift to Almanzo at the end of the book that is perhaps the greatest moment of Almanzo's young life.

Almanzo had admired his father's Morgan horses since the very beginning, and it is his hope that one day Father will see him as big enough and mature enough for Almanzo to raise his own Morgans. After returning Mr. Thompson's pocketbook and earning a two hundred dollar reward, Almanzo asks his father if he can buy a colt with the money. Imagine Almanzo's surprize when Father tells him to leave his money in the bank and that he will give Starlight to Almanzo to break him and drive him, and he will be Almanzo's to sell or keep as he sees fit.

While The Long Winter remains my strong favorite from the Little House series, Farmer Boy also holds a special place in my heart. I remember how tough it is proving you are grown up enough to do things.

Independence Day


In Farmer Boy, the only book of the Little House series about Almanzo's youth, Almanzo and his family rode into Malone to celebrate Independence Day.

This book tells us that everything was different that day as the Wilder family traveled: Almanzo wore his new suit, nobody was working in the fields, everyone was in their Sunday clothes driving to town. The sidewalks in town were crowded, but the stores were closed. Flags were everywhere and the band in the Square played tunes like "Yankee Doodle".

When the band stopped playing, the minister prayed, and then everyone rose, the men took off their hats, and the band played the National Athem, which everyone sung. There was a reading of the Declaration of Independence and two men made political speeches.

Pink lemonade cost a nickle a glass. Almanzo and his cousin Frank get into an argument over whether Almanzo is scared to ask his father for a nickle because Frank had one and bought himself a glass of lemonade, not sharing even a drop.

It is here that Almanzo and Father have a discussion over money. Almanzo asks his father for a nickle to buy some lemonade, but Father takes out a silver half-dollar and asks Almanzo if he knows what it is. Almanzo knew that it was half a dollar, but then his father tells him it is something that Almanzo had never thought of before: "'It's work, son,'" Father said. "'That's what money is; it's hard work.'"

As Father goes on to explain, Almanzo could take that half dollar and buy a suckling pig with it, raise it and then it would raise a litter of pigs worth four or five dollars each. Or Almanzo could buy the lemonade with it, drink the lemonade and it would be all gone.

Cousin Frank and the other boys are surprized and impressed when Almanzo shows them the half dollar, and Almanzo decides to get the most value out of it, like Father suggested.

Then the band is marching down the street, the flags are waving, and the cannons are fired.

The chapter ends with Almanzo and his father having a discussion of how America was made, and I can imagine this discussion made quite an impression on the young Almanzo and his future. Here is the last paragraph containing Mr. Wilder's wise words to Almanzo:

"'This country goes three thousand miles west, now. It goes 'way out beyond Kansas, and beyond the Great American Desert, over mountains bigger than these mountains, down to the Pacific Ocean. It's the biggest country in the world, and it was farmers who took all that country and made it America, son. Don't you ever forget that.'"

Happy Indepdendence Day everyone!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

July Dates for Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant



Looking for something fun to do this summer? How about traveling to De Smet, SD to take in the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant!

According to the pageant's website, over a hundred volunteers work together each year to present a family-friendly drama based on the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This year will be The Long Winter (my favorite of all the Little House books).

The 2009 dates are as follows:

July 10, 11, 12
July 17, 18, 19
July 24, 25, 26

There are also pre-show activities. The website also includes a page on the history of the pageant and a photo gallery.

Step back in time to when the West was being settled by pioneering men and women like the Ingalls family.

For more information about experiencing De Smet, South Dakota, visit www.desmetsd.com.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Harvey Dunn Memorial Event Planned



The Brookings Register has reported that the first Harvey Dunn Memorial Plein Air event takes place Friday, August 14 through Sunday, August 16 at the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota.

For more information about this event visit www.discoverlaura.org or call the South Dakota Art Museum toll free at 866-805-7590. Most of Dunn's best known work is housed in the museum.

Dunn is best remembered for a series of South Dakota paintings known as his "prairie paintings". The above photo is Dunn's "The Prairie is My Garden". Dunn is one of South Dakota's most famous artists because his "prairie paintings" have come to symbolize the state's early history. The Dunn family was acquainted with the Ingalls family, and Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer, John E. Miller wrote a book titled Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town: Where History and Literature Meet, which discusses how Wilder captured prairie life with her words and Dunn with his art.

Survey results



Last month's survey results didn't surprise me at all. Over 50% of our readers said they would be purchasing Melissa Gilbert's autobiography, Prairie Tale. Gilbert has been making the rounds of TV and radio interviews to promote the book. It is getting great reviews and is currently #1 on Amazon.com in three subcategories of Biographies and Memoirs.

Dean Butler came out and endorsed the book at his blog this week. I haven't bought it yet and I'm not sure if I am going to. While I never expected that Melissa Gilbert is any more perfect than the rest of us, there are just some things I would rather not know about a girl who I grew up watching on TV, whose TV family I wanted to be a part of. I'm not sure I want to let go of that fantasy yet.

You can find some reviews of Melissa's book at:

Entertainment Weekly

Amazon

Goodreads

Thanks for participating in our survey. Look for a new survey soon!

Dean Butler to Appear in Sioux Falls, SD


Argus Leader Media has reported that Little House on the Prairie's Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder) will be on hand at The Washington Pavillion of Arts and Science on June 27, 2009 to kick off sales for Little House on the Prairie: The Musical, which will be playing at the Great Hall in June 2010.

As most people know, Melissa Gilbert, who portrayed Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie has been cast in the role of Caroline (Ma) Ingalls in the musical.

Gilbert also released her autobiography this month. Prairie Tale is available at Amazon.com.

Butler will also sign autographs and discuss his time on the show. Additional activities include: rope making, prairie hairstyles, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant Performers. Please visit www.washingtonpavilion.org for more information.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Patrick Labyorteaux on iCarly


Twitter is a wonderful thing! It allows you to follow what is going on in the lives of your friends, colleagues, and business associates. It's also a neat place to read about your favorite celebrities' current projects. Of course there is that whole ghost tweeter controversy, but it's still a fun place to be.

I follow some of the Little House on the Prairie actors who are there, and Patrick Labyorteaux, who played Andrew Garvey, has been sharing about his upcoming appearance on iCarly.

iCarly is a show on Nickelodeon starring Miranda Cosgrove and Jerry Trainor, both of Drake & Josh fame. Cosgrove plays Carly Shay, the minor sister of Spencer (Trainor), who runs a webshow with her two best friends, Freddie and Sam, played by Nathan Kress and Jennette McCurdy. Spencer is an artist who makes the most offbeat sculptures and also Carly's legal guardian. They live in an apartment building in Washington state. Freddie and his overly paranoid mother, Mrs. Bentson live next door to Carly. Not quite sure where Sam lives, but she has a deadbeat mother who is often referred to in the show, but is never seen.

Not quite Little House on the Prairie, but it's a funny show that my girls enjoy.

It's great to hear that Patrick is going to be on such a popular show. No word on the airdate yet, but hopefully we'll see Patrick on iCarly soon.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

LEGACY DOCUMENTARIES - HISTORIC PROJECTS ANNOUNCEMENT


I recently received this note from Dean Butler, Almanzo Wilder (LHOP, NBC). I'm very excited about these potential projects and will be supporting Dean and Legacy Documentaries in any way I can.

Message from Dean:

I wanted to thank all of you for your support of ALMANZO WILDER: LIFE BEFORE LAURA. Thanks to all those who have purchased it. For those who haven’t the DVD is available at the Wilder Homestead in Burke, NY. You can order the DVD on-line at www.almanzowilderfarm.com.

Beyond Little House, American history has always been something that interests me, so I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to be producing other documentaries that feature American heroes and patriots. The idea is to make these stories come alive for young people in particular and hopefully inspire them to make a difference in the world and in our country. I’m also more than pleased to tell you that I’m working on a production paradigm that would deliver these “slice of history” DVDs to school children for about the cost of a Happy Meal or a paperback book!

Some of you out there are teachers and parents and you certainly have an interest in the education of children… I would love to hear from you. Which of the following titles do you think would have the most appeal to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students and teachers? Here are some of the ones under consideration:

Tom Savage – early Colonial period - a young boy from England who, at 13, stowed away on a vessel leaving London for the Virginia colonies. He was traded to the Powhatan Tribe in exchange for a Native American boy. Tom provided valuable information about Native American culture (as well as information about the likelihood of attacks) to the colonists.

Benjamin Banneker – Revolutionary War era - a Revolutionary War patriot and an African American freeman who aided in the design of the Capitol. A man of great accomplishment, Banneker wrote a famous letter to Thomas Jefferson, advocating the abolition of slavery. A child prodigy, Banneker was also an astronomer and published an almanac.

Sybil Ludington – Revolutionary War era - At the tender age of 16, Sybil Ludington, daughter of an American military leader, took a midnight ride longer and more dangerous than Paul Revere’s famous ride, to warn the colonists that the British had invaded Danbury.

Spy Kids of the American Revolution – Revolutionary Era - Dicey Langston and John Darragh are only two of the young people who were used as spies and messengers during the American Revolution. The fact that they were mere children meant they were often overlooked by adults and therefore were valuable messengers... though it was dangerous work. John Darragh, 14, would listen in on the British officers who took over a room in his parents’ house. His mother would sew information into his coat buttons so he could deliver “intelligence” to George Washington’s army. Dicey Langston, 15, often overheard neighbors and loyalists talking about troop movements. When she heard that the British were planning to attack her brother’s militia, she ran to warn them, swimming though the Tyger River in the middle of the night to do it.

Elizabeth Blackwell – Pre Civil War - the first woman doctor in America. After being rejected by over 20 medical schools, Elizabeth was finally admitted to Geneva Medical College as a prank. But she stuck it out and graduated first in her class in 1849, despite the fact that she was forbidden to attend certain anatomy classes which were deemed improper for a lady to attend.

Maggie Walker – Post Civil War -A community leader and civil rights advocate born in 1867, Maggie was the first woman (and an African American) to start a bank in the United States. Despite the recent economic downturn, the bank she started is still in existence today.

Other titles under consideration are the more familiar ones: Betsy Ross, Martha Washington, Pocahontas.

So this is your chance to help design the future of my venture into American History! Write to me and let me know which titles interest you the most. Feel free to suggest other names as well.

Please respond to dean(at)legacydocumentaries(dot)com.


For anyone who has not purchased Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, I encourage you to do so. It is absolutely wonderful and would make an excellent addition to anyone's Laura Ingalls Wilder collection. You can read my review here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Alison Arngrim (LHOP's Nellie Oleson) Book in the Works


Alison Argrim, who portrayed spoiled brat Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie, tweeted that she found a publisher for her book. The planned title is Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, which is also the title of Alison's comedy act.

You can read more about Alison's comedy act at her website.

We congratulate Alison on her book deal and look forward to more news soon.

Mark Landon Dies at Age 60

Mark Landon, adopted son of the late Michael Landon, was found dead in his Los Angeles home. According to Entertainment Weekly, which ran a short news brief about Mark's death, he appeared in a few movies and television shows.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark's family during this difficult time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dean Butler (LHOP's Almanzo Wilder) in New Production


Dean Butler, who portrayed Almanzo Wilder in Little House on the Prairie, has been very busy these days. He's involved in the Saving the Lives of Our Own project, which seeks to preserve the promise of the Motion Picture & Television Fund: 'taking care of our own.' To find out more about Saving the Lives or Our Own, please visit their website. They also have a social network on ning that can be found at http://mptfamily.ning.com/.

While Dean spends a great deal of time behind the camera these days, producing documentaries through Peak Moore Enterprises and his Legacy Documentaries brand, like Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura--which we reviewed here--Dean has also been very busy with his new production, a one-man show titled, "It's All About Me".

Dean's cousin, Hugo Schwyzer wrote an article at his blog about Dean's new show. Make sure you stop by and check it out.

Monday, May 4, 2009

May Featured Book of the Month



Little House on Rocky Ridge is the first book in Roger Lea MacBride's eight-book series of Rose Wilder's life: moving to Missouri, growing up on Rocky Ridge Farm, going to school, and leaving Missouri to spend a year with her Aunt Eliza Jane Wilder Thayer in Louisiana. The last book of the series, Bachelor Girl, chronicles Rose's journey to San Francisco, where she became one of the many women who earned her own way by taking a job outside the home.

The first chapter of Little House on Rocky Ridge starts off with Mama and Papa (Laura and Almanzo Wilder) deciding to leave De Smet, SD to travel to The Land of the Big Red Apple in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.

The journey was a tough one, even though their friends the Cooleys came with them. And when Manly and Bess (Almanzo and Laura) arrived in Missouri and finally settled on a little farm to purchase, they discovered the hundred dollars Laura had hidden inside her writing desk--all the money they had--was missing!

But once the money was found, they paid a visit to the banker and bought the little farm with the rocky terrain that they christened Rocky Ridge Farm. Then they really got down to work and made it a real farm.

Originally published under the umbrella of Little House The Rocky Ridge Years in 1993, by the time Book 7 - On the Banks of the Bayou and Book 8 - Bachelor Girl came out in 1998 and 1999 respectively, the series was titled The Rose Years.

Roger Lea MacBride, Rose Wilder Lane's only heir, went to painstaking lengths to ensure that this series was as close to the original Little House books as possible. Those efforts are more than evident to readers; and it is my opinion that of all the other books about Laura's relatives, The Rose Years comes the closest in style and tone to the work of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

This series had two illustrators - David Gilleece and Dan Andreasen. While both men had their unqiue style, they also managed to illustrate the books in a way that left the reader feeling like she was in familiar territory with the Little House books that were illustrated by Garth Williams.

Little House readers will love finding out more about Rose Wilder and Rocky Ridge Farm in Little House on Rocky Ridge.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New Survey!



Please vote in our latest survey, which asks, "Are you planning to buy Melissa Gilbert's biography?"

Your choices are:

* You Bet!
* Maybe.
* Maybe as a gift.
* I'm waiting for reviews.
* Not really interested.

This survey will be available until May 30, 2009.

Melissa Gilbert's Biography Coming June 2009 from Simon & Schuster



Little House on the Prairie fans will be thrilled to hear that Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura (Half-pint) Ingalls Wilder on this classic television series has written a biography titled, Prairie Tale. This book is due to be released by Simon & Schuster in June 2009.

Synopsis from the publisher's website:



To fans of the hugely successful television series Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert grew up in a fantasy world with a larger-than-life father, friends and family she could count on, and plenty of animals to play with. Children across the country dreamed of the Ingalls' idyllic life -- and so did Melissa.

She was a natural on camera, but behind the scenes, life was more complicated. Adopted as a baby into a legendary show business family, Melissa wrestled with questions about her identity and struggled to maintain an image of perfection her mother created and enforced. Only after years of substance abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and made-for-television movies did she begin to figure out who she really was.

With candor and humor, the cherished actress traces her complicated journey from buck-toothed Laura "Half-pint" Ingalls to Hollywood starlet, wife, and mother. She partied with the Brat Pack, dated heartthrobs like Rob Lowe and bad boys like Billy Idol, and began a self-destructive pattern of addiction and codependence. Left in debt after her first marriage, and struggling to create some sense of stability, she eventually realized that her career on television had earned her popularity, admiration, and love from everyone but herself.

Through hard work, tenacity, sobriety, and the blessings of a solid marriage, Melissa has accepted her many different identities and learned to laugh, cry, and forgive in new ways. Women everywhere may have idolized her charming life on Little House on the Prairie, but Melissa's own unexpectedly honest, imperfect, and down-to-earth story is an inspiration.


You can pre-order Prairie Tale from Simon & Schuster's website or at Amazon.com.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

LHOP Makes Fox News' List of TV's 10 Worst Series Finales


Life has kept me pretty busy lately, so I apologize for not updating this blog sooner. I hope to post a new survey and a new book of the month this weekend.

While checking the daily happenings at Fox News.com, I came across an article about the long-running drama ER, which ended its run tonight. I didn't watch it. The family and I were at Disney on Ice--which is always a great show.

Fox News has compiled a list of TV's 10 Worst Series Finales and our beloved Little House on the Prairie came in at Number 5.

While Fox News didn't have many complaints about Hello and Goodbye, the last episode of Season 9, they were not overly kind about the blowing up of Walnut Grove in The Last Farewell, saying, "Note to future producers: Leave your audience with the illusion that somehow, somewhere, the place they've visited weekly for nearly 10 years actually still exists. Put down the gunpowder."

You can read the rest of Fox's comments on The Last Farewell here.

What do you think? Should the majority of Walnut Grove have been blown to bits? If you didn't care for how the series ended, how would you have ended it?

I look forward to your comments.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How the Little House Books Teach Selflessness

During the month of March, The Book Connection--my book blog--is participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). All you have to do during NaBloPoMo is blog every day for the entire month. Each month they give you a special theme to work around, which helps to inspire blogging ideas. This month's theme is "Giving Up" and this post flows in nicely with that theme. Because it has a Little House tie-in, I have posted it here. Please feel free to share your thoughts on this post.



Some of my Little House friends are rereading the Little House books in order. These beloved children's stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder have been my favorites for years--though I admit they did not interest me as much when I was a child as they do now.

We are currently reading and discussing On the Banks of Plum Creek, the fourth in the series. The most recent dicussion centers around Chapter 12 - Christmas Horses. In this chapter, Ma talks to Laura and Mary about what Pa wants for Christmas - a set of horses to help him harrow and harvest the wheat. The girls want things too, but horses aren't on their lists.

But after talking with Ma about Santa Claus and being unselfish, the girls soberly agree that they will ask Santa for horses. And in the next chapter they are pleasantly surprised to find that while Santa Claus did bring horses, he also managed to bring a few treats for Laura, Mary, and their baby sister Carrie; so the girls have a wonderful Christmas after all.

It is this type of sacrifice for the good of the family that endears the Little House books to generations of fans. The way in which the Ingalls family always ends up pulling together and helping one another is inspiring and makes you want to have that type of family too.



When the classic televison series Little House on the Prairie aired in the 70's and early 80's, it is exactly that pull together and help each other, our love and faith will get us through type of mentality from the books that Michael Landon and the crew captured week after week. While over time the storylines were based less and less on the material from the books, the essence and tone of the television series never changed. This is what I fondly remember about watching the show on the one television our family owned.

My children live a life much better than the one I lived. Growing up we had few material possessions and our family is what would now be called dysfunctional, at best. There are few things that my children want for, though it seems their list increases by the day, and I often wonder if, as parents, we have been successful in teaching them to think of others. And then I ponder the meaning of the sacrifice made by two young girls living on the banks of Plum Creek, and hope that our family could pull together in such a crisis, where our livelihood and our future might depend on it.

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder might have taken place during the 1800's, but for those of us living now, they not only entertain, they teach the values that will make our world a better place.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Planning a Vacation to the Little House Sites...


...then you have to stop by Beyond Little House, a new blog that among others things gives you excellent information on how to plan your Little House Site tour.

The contributors to this blog are listed as: Rebecca Brammer, who runs the Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl site; Sandra Hume, editor of the Homesteader newsletter; Amy Mattson Lauters, Ph.D., author of The Rediscovered Writings of Rose Wilder Lane and Sarah S. Uthoff, a widely respected authority on Laura Ingalls Wilder based in Iowa.

Beyond Little House certainly sounds like one blog all Laura Ingalls Wilder fans should be checking in with regularly.

Missouri Honors Writers, Artists with Tour



According to News-Leader.com out of Springfield, MO, the Writers Hall of Fame--didn't know there was such a thing--will be honoring 15 of Missouri’s most successful and well-known children’s authors, artists, playwrights and poets with a traveling tour in June.

The tour begins in St. Louis and moves to Kansas City and southwest Missouri before returning to St. Louis eight days later. Among one of the many places that attendees will visit is the Laura Ingalls Wilder home and museum in Mansfield.

You can read more about this event here.

A Very Different Little House on the Prairie Blog



I've tossed around discussing this topic for at least a month because I wasn't sure of the reaction I would get, but there are moments when I find myself reading this blog that keeps popping up in my Google Alerts.

In January, Mike McComb started a blog titled WTF Little House on the Prairie?--which not surprisingly takes a very critical, mostly humorous, and sometimes vulgar look at Little House episodes.

As a writer I firmly believe in freedom of speech, though there are many things out there that I believe are better not said; but what I find interesting about McComb is that he is waiting to start his Masters Program in Television, Radio and Film at Syracuse University. So, McComb has an interest in this media, which makes me curious over how he views things--even if I don't agree with him.

Here is one of McComb's milder comments about the episode Goodbye, Mrs. Wilder. This is the first morning after the new dress code has been installed by Mrs. Oleson, who is now the teacher:

"The next day at school all the kids are in uniforms: the boys looking like bored waiters at the Olive Garden and the girls ready to audition for Pirates of Penzance."

Now, I have to admit, that makes me chuckle.

There are other not so nice comments--which I will spare you from--but McComb obviously has some knowledge of Little House in order to write such detailed impressions of these episodes. And, at least in my mind, we are talking television, not real life. As most Little House fans are aware, there has been an ongoing controversy over how much Michael Landon and his staff departed from the content of the books, and if anything, McComb is poking fun at the television creation, not Laura's legacy.

Feel free to throw virtual tomatoes my way for drawing attention to McComb's blog. I can't help but browse through it every once in a while to read his critique of my all-time favorite show.

The Little House on the Prairie Musical on Tour in 2009-2010



The New York Times reports that the Little House on the Prairie Musical, starring Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura on the Little House television series) as Ma, will run for five weeks at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. A tour of performances in more than 30 cities is planned through 2010.



* Photo credit goes to the Little House on the Prairie Musical website.

And the Survey Says...



Our last survey asked voters if they thought that Little House on the Prairie would be as popular if it aired today versus in the 1970's. An overwhleming 31% said "Definitely!", while "Maybe" and "Probably Not" were tied at 12%.

Thanks goes out to eveyrone who voted. Look for another survey coming soon!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Almanzo!



On February 13, 1857 James and Angelina Wilder welcomed a son. They named him Almanzo James Wilder, and he joined the other Wilder children: Laura Ann, Royal, Eliza Jane, and Alice on the Wilder farm in upstate New York.

All his life, Almanzo wanted to be a farmer. In Farmer Boy--the only book of the entire Little House series dedicated solely to Almanzo--we read of young Almanzo's life growing up in the red farmhouse that has been lovingly restored by the Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association. This classic children's tale centers around Almanzo trying to prove to his father that he is old enough to have his own colt. And in the end, after much work and determination, Almanzo succeeds.

We don't hear about Almanzo again until The Long Winter--my favorite of all the Little House books--where Almanzo and Cap Garland risk their lives to find seed wheat to feed the starving town of De Smet, SD that has been cut off from supplies because the trains won't make it through until spring.



Spring finally comes to the prairie, and there are church socials, dances, and "literaries" to keep everyone entertained. We read of Laura and Almanzo's meeting in Little Town on the Prairie and how Almanzo began escorting Laura home. Then when Laura is forced to take a job in Brewster to help pay Mary's tuition at the blind school, The Happy Golden Years tells us of Almanzo driving Laura back and forth from Brewster because she was homesick and of the sleigh rides they shared together once she was home for good. And who could forget Almanzo's suprise return on Christmas Eve when he was supposed to be in Minnesota with Royal.

Farmer Boy and the books of Almanzo and Laura's courtship are filled with fun times, but The First Four Years has a decidely different tone. Published after Laura's and Rose's deaths, this book chronicles the first four years of the Wilders' marriage--which was filled with disappointments and sorrow. Lost crops, illness, and the loss of their home and son did not allow for the healthy dose of optimism that is prevalent in the other Little House books. And we realize how difficult the pioneering era truly was.

On the Way Home details Laura, Almanzo, and Rose's trip from De Smet, SD to Mansfield, MO, where they would spend most of their married lives. Here, the Wilders prospered, Laura became a journalist, and wrote her Little House books.



It is impossible for me to enter into a discussion of Almanzo Wilder without mentioning Dean Butler, who portrayed Almanzo on the classic television show, Little House on the Prairie. Dean's version of Almanzo captured the strong, silent man from Laura's books. He brought to life, Almanzo's love of the farm and his horses, and even his ability to push through adversity and make a life for him and his family.



Dean has maintained the connection to his Little House on the Prairie roots. Dean has produced some of the bonus content for the Little House DVDs and the majority of the new bonus content found on the Little House on the Prairie Mega-Pack. In addition, Dean and Legacy Documentaries released a documentary of Almanzo Wilder's childhood, based upon Farmer Boy. You can find my review of Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura here.

On Almanzo Wilder's 152nd birthday, we remember the boy growing up on the farm in New York. We think fondly of the dashing young man who courted Laura and won her heart. During the month of love, our hearts are touched by the effort and care Almanzo built into Rocky Ridge Farm that he shared with Laura for many years. And lastly, we are thankful for Laura's loving portrayal of her husband in so many of her books.

Happy Birthday Manly!