Friday, January 30, 2009

Laura's Books Safe for another Year

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that it would grant a one year stay on the testing and certification of certain products under the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Individuals and groups have been contacting the CPSC with their concerns and there is even a petition requesting that the CPSIA be repealed.

Consumers who purchase products for children 12 and under--including books--should keep on eye on what happens over the next year as opponents of the current version of the CPSIA continue their efforts to get the law repealed or amended.

You can read a press release about the one year stay from the CPSC here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Laura's Books Not on Library Shelves?

What if your son or daughter wandered into the local library to find one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic children's books, but couldn't find it? What if instead, he or she found row after row of empty library shelves?

Sounds crazy? Maybe not.

According to a notice posted at the Issues & Advocacy section of the American Libray Association's (ALA) website, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will not reach a decision on whether to exempt libraries from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)--which requires manadatory lead testing on all products targeted for children ages 12 and under--until next week. While being advised not to take any action at this time, American libraries could be forced to remove all children's books targeted for ages 12 and under from their shelves if the law remains unchanged.

The ALA is seeking library advocates to contact the CPSC to let them know how important this issue is to American libraries, and I must add, to our children.

Please see this notice at the ALA website for information on how you can help.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Survey!

It's been a while, but there is a new survey posted in the left hand sidebar. Keeping in mind the advent of reality TV and how the television business has changed over the years, do you think Little House on the Prairie would be just as popular of a show if it was airing now instead of in the 70's and 80's?

Feel free to share the reasons behind your vote here!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Little House on the Prairie Musical Coming to Denver Center in December 2009

Melissa Gilbert as Ma Ingalls in Little House on the Praire. Photo by Michal Daniel

According to Playbill News, Little House on the Prairie the Musical staring Melissa Gilbert will be coming to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in December 2009. You can read the announcement here.

For more information visit

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Book about Laura Ingalls Wilder Due out in 2010

According to the Janaury 12, 2009 issue of Publisher's Weekly, Riverhead--a division of Penguin Group--has acquired the rights to Wendy McClure's new book, The Wilder Life. It's a first person narrative that explores Laura's life and work.

The author made a brief mention of the book at her blog, which you'll find here.

I love it when I get a chance to add to my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection!

Columnist Believes Losing Yourself in Books Will Create a Bond with Kids

Tyra Damm, columnist for the Dallas Morning News, recently wrote an article about the thrill of discovering a new book or author with a child. Damm lists Laura Ingalls Wilder as one of her favorites, alongside Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein and others, and provides insight into how reading with her children has created a special bond as they stay up late to finish a chapter and find out how the characters get out of various predicaments.

It's definitely worth a read. You'll find the article here.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Insights into Modern Day Troubles

I stumbled upon this article in the Marshall-Democrat News by staff writer, Marcia Gorrell, who says that even though it seems the world is facing new challenges that never could have been imagined years ago, things may not have changed as much as we think.

Gorrell refers to the book, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist, which features columns Laura wrote for the Missouri Ruralist Magazine from 1911-1924. And in this book, Gorrell has found that Laura discussed many of the same issues that we face today.

If you would like to read the article in its entirety, you will find it here.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Relative Featured in Beaver Dam Newspaper

The Beaver Dam, Wisconsin Daily Citizen interviewed a relative of Laura Ingalls Wilder for a recent edition of their daily paper. If you click on this link you'll get to read about Beth Ingalls-Leisses, the great-granddaughter of Hiriam Ingalls, Charles Ingalls's brother.

I've had the great pleasure of getting to know Beth over the past few years and I can tell you she is one special lady who has contributed a great deal to keeping Laura's legacy alive.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Character Profile of Mary Ingalls Kendall

This is the second character profile I put together for Little House on the Prairie. Just as I had a challenging time putting together a synopsis of Laura's TV life without sharing everything, I tried to do my best to capture Mary's character as I see her without overdoing it.


We first meet Mary Ingalls in the Pilot movie. She is Charles and Caroline’s oldest daughter and she is very different from her younger sister, Laura. The family leaves the Big Woods of Wisconsin and journeys to Kansas, and we soon discover that while Laura’s never ending curiosity tends to get her in a bit of trouble, Mary is happy to play the obedient, helpful daughter.

On Christmas Day in Kansas, Mary is seen at the table helping Ma get the food ready, but Laura is busy trying to peek into her stocking to get a glimpse at her presents. And this is exactly the type of relationship the girls continue to have until Mary moves away from home.

Mary’s good looks and her obedient nature makes things tense between the two oldest Ingalls girls. Now living in Walnut Grove, Laura struggles in school while Mary excels, creating just another reason for Laura to be jealous of her older sister. But perhaps the biggest issue between the sisters is boys. Laura often had a crush on boys who ended up being more interested in Mary than they were in her younger, tomboyish sister, causing hurt feelings and a few arguments between them. Mary, however, was a staunch supporter of her sister against Nellie Oleson, who was destined to be a thorn in Laura’s side from day one.

The real Mary Ingalls dealt with a great deal of hardship in her life. She was ill and lost her sight at an early age. She never married and lived at home with her parents until their deaths, and then lived with one of her sisters until her own death. And one must wonder if Michael Landon used these difficulties to shape Mary’s TV character, as she also, had more than her share of hardships.

In Season 3, Mary is kicked by a horse while cleaning out the barn and her internal injuries go from bad to worse (To Live with Fear). Charles and Caroline take her to Rochester, where Mary undergoes an operation. Unable to pay the hospital bills, Charles leaves his wife and daughter in Rochester to go find work. While he is away, Mary requires an additional operation, even though the doctor has told Caroline that she might not survive it. She is held hostage by Frank and Jesse James who had sought shelter in Walnut Grove under assumed names (The Aftermath). And Mary has her share of boy troubles too. Her fiancé, John Sanderson Jr. goes away to college (I'll Ride the Wind) and when she pays him a surprise visit in Chicago, she discovers he has been carrying on a relationship with another young woman(Times of Change).

At the end of Season 4, Mary’s eyesight begins to weaken. At this point, she has accepted her glasses, so it’s not a big deal to her to get new ones and she dismisses the trouble as eye strain, until her Pa finally admits to her that she is going blind (I'll Be Waving as You Drive Away).

Scared and angry, Mary falls into a pit of self-pity and Charles and Caroline make the difficult decision to send her to Iowa where there is a school for the blind. Mary believes her parents are trying to get rid of her and she spends the first several days at the blind school acting out—something that we rarely see from her.

Mary meets Adam Kendall while in Iowa. He is her teacher and he is the first to tell her that she is not special just because she is blind. Adam is also the one who comforts her when Mary is afraid to return home and put the skills she has learned to the test. It isn’t until Mary realizes that she may never see Adam again that she discovers her feelings for him. Adam asks her to join him in Winoka to start a new blind school and Mary agrees. It seems that though she had given up on her dream of being a teacher, her dreams are destined to be fulfilled, and Mary looks forward to developing her relationship with Adam.

The entire Ingalls family moves to Winoka because times are so tough in Walnut Grove. Mary celebrates her 16th birthday while in Winoka and this is where we see that Laura and Mary’s relationship has definitely changed (As Long As We're Together). The jealousy is no longer there and a Laura, who is also quickly growing up, expresses her love for her sister. But after months of trying to deny it, Charles realizes that he will never be happy in the city and the family says goodbye to Mary and Adam and travels back to Walnut Grove (There's No Place Like Home).

Charles and Caroline are thrilled when they receive Mary’s letter that she and Adam are going to be married (The Wedding). They can’t afford to take the whole family with them—a family that now includes Albert, an orphan they met in Winoka who they unofficially adopt and bring home to Walnut Grove—so Charles and Caroline travel by train to attend Mary’s wedding. Mary is excited about getting married until she hears her Ma talking about how her children used to run off and she fears that two blind people couldn’t care for a sighted child and calls the wedding off. When one of the children from the school is lost in a sandstorm, Mary and Adam search for her. Finding Susan Goodspeed gives Mary the confidence she needs to marry Adam.

But happiness would not come easy to the Kendalls. When the blind school is purchased by the greedy Mr. Standish they are forced to find a new location (Blind Journey). Mary and Adam, with Charles’s help, make the long journey from Winoka to Walnut Grove to a new blind school at Mr. Hanson’s old house. Mary becomes pregnant for the first time but miscarries the child (The Sound of Children). The blind school is turned into a hospital when an anthrax epidemic hits town and some of Mary and Adam’s students die (Mortal Mission).

Mary gets pregnant again and gives birth to Adam Charles Holbrook Kendall, but the infant is killed in a fire that also destroys the blind school and takes the life of Alice Garvey, a good friend to the Ingalls family (May We Make Them Proud). At one point Mary thinks she is regaining her sight, but is disappointed to discover it was untrue (The Enchanted Cottage). This makes it even harder when a freak accident returns Adam’s sight and Mary feels like she is losing her husband to a world she cannot see as he pursues his law career (To See the Light).

Once Adam gets his law degree, he soon realizes a town the size of Walnut Grove will not allow him to provide for Mary, so they say goodbye to the Ingalls family again and move to New York (The Reincarnation of Nellie).

The trials that Mary endured during her life made her a person of strong character and I believe that Michael Landon captured that in many ways. Losing her sight forced Mary to focus on her strengths, and not only was she able to do that, she flourished and found love with Adam. Mary was a woman of quiet dignity, very different from her younger sister, but with the same pioneering spirit that taught her that as long as you stick together, you can do anything. Adam became the perfect companion for Mary, and just as Mary had stood up for Laura against Nellie Oleson, she stood up for Adam when she felt he was wronged, allowing him to pursue a career he had only dreamed about.

When Mary and Adam return to Walnut Grove one last time to celebrate Christmas with the Ingalls family, Hester Sue, and a pregnant Laura and her husband Almanzo (A Christmas They Never Forgot), we see a Mary that seems truly happy with her life, and we rejoice in the overdue happiness that Mary and Adam have together.

You can find Laura's character profile here.

Character Profile of Laura Ingalls Wilder

My interest with Little House began with Michael Landon's show, Little House on the Prairie. In all honesty, the books did not grab my attention until I was out of high school, though I had attempted to read Little House on the Prairie in fifth grade.

As a writer, I am fascinated with the creation of characters; and in this instance, with how TV writers portrayed the life of an historical figure whose life has been the focus of attention for many years.

It is this fascination that led me to create a profile of the TV version of Laura Ingalls Wilder. While I know that many who appreciate and research Laura's real life did not enjoy how far Landon strayed from the original content of Laura's books in creating his show, I still believe that he captured the essence of all that is Laura and the books that told her story.

I share with you today, my profile of Melissa Gilbert's, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I would enjoy your comments.


I felt opening up the character discussions with Laura was a good idea. Little House on the Prairie is based upon her books and it really is her story. Her voice is usually the first thing we hear at the beginning of an episode and the last thing we hear as the final scene fades into the credits.

When we first meet Laura Elizabeth Ingalls, she is the freckled, bucked-tooth, red-headed child of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. Along with her Ma, Pa, older sister Mary and baby sister Carrie, Laura leaves the Big Woods of Wisconsin and journeys west.

Even in the Pilot movie we are able to see that Pa and Laura have a special bond. It will be this special bond which makes her more vulnerable to being hurt when Charles’s attention is directed towards his newborn son, Charles Frederick Ingalls (The Lord is My Shepherd). And even from the beginning we see it will be Laura’s constant struggle to show her Pa that she is older than he gives her credit for.

Laura and Ma have a very loving relationship. In the episode Country Girls, we hear Laura’s impassioned speech about all Caroline does for the family. It is Ma who understands Laura's love for Almanzo and who believes that Laura will be able to make Almanzo see her as a woman one day (Back to School). It is Ma who empathizes with Laura when her daughter realizes for the first time that she will no longer be teaching once she gets married (Laura Ingalls Wilder). And in The Last Farewell, Laura admits to her mother that all her life, she wanted to be like Caroline.

Laura spends a lot of her time feeling bossed around by her older sister, Mary. It isn’t bad enough for Laura that Mary is older and gets to tell her what to do, Mary is also a better student and acts the way a proper girl should, while Laura is a tomboy who would prefer to fish or play ball over doing chores. And Mary is a huge source of jealousy for Laura--she has the attention of many boys while Laura has to pretend to like Willie Oleson to get a boy to ask her to a dance (Spring Dance).

When the Ingalls family moves to Walnut Grove, Laura and Mary attend school for the first time. There, Laura meets the girl who will be her rival for many years--Nellie Oleson. The spoiled daughter of Harriet and Nels Oleson, Nellie looks down on Laura because she is a poor country girl. Nellie can be mercilessly cruel to Laura at times. Remember when Nellie had Laura believing that she had been paralyzed after falling off Bunny (Bunny)? Or when Laura took Nellie’s music box and then broke it, which resulted in Nellie and Willie making Laura their slave in exchange for not telling on her (The Music Box)? And who could forget how Nellie tricked Laura into believing that she should study Vocabulary for her final year exam, when she should have been studying History like Miss Wilder told her (Back to School)?

But Laura usually got the better of Nellie in the end and her triumphs made it worth watching her go through some difficult moments.

In Season 5, the Ingalls family moved from Walnut Grove to the city of Winoka. There, they met an orphan named Albert. Laura and Albert hit it off right away and she is happy when Charles invites Albert to return to Walnut Grove with them. There are some growing pains for Laura as she believes perhaps Charles will no longer need her (Fagin). But she still loves her brother Albert. The two become close and devise many schemes--usually against the Olesons.

Once Laura gets married and moves out of the little house on Plum Creek, her relationship with Albert changes. She is not only Albert’s sister, she also becomes his teacher. She is busy taking care of the house and Almanzo, but it doesn’t prevent her from looking out for Albert’s best interest when his schoolwork suffers in the episode Fight Team Fight!

The Ingalls family leaves Walnut Grove and moves to Burr Oak, Iowa. Albert and Charles return to Walnut Grove two more times. It is difficult for Laura to watch her beloved brother battle an addiction to morphine in the episode Home Again. Then Laura is forced to face the impending death of her younger brother in the episode Look Back to Yesterday. It is a sad time for Laura, as she can’t accept the fact that Albert will no longer be with them. The last time we see them together, Laura and Albert, along with the school children, climb the mountain up to the Keepsake Tree and place their blood brothers badges into the time capsule.

Boys always seemed to be a problem for Laura. Like some younger sisters, she would fall in love with boys who ended up liking Mary instead--Johnny Johnson and Seth. Other times, she embarrassed herself while trying to impress a boy, like when she put apples down her dress so she would look more developed and perhaps attract Jimmy Hill (The Rivals). But most of her romantic troubles centered around one man--Almanzo Wilder. From the moment Laura saw Almanzo, she was in love. There were many heartaches for Laura, because Almanzo was much older than she and he saw her only as a young friend. But Laura would not be deterred; she watched while Almanzo dangled young lady after young lady on his arm, carrying her secret with her for two years. It took her first teaching job away from home, to get Almanzo to notice her. Suddenly, she looked older and Almanzo’s feelings rapidly began to change (Sweet Sixteen).

But their courtship was not an easy one. Almanzo could be stubborn and full of pride. Twice, their courtship was ended--once by Almanzo and the second time by Laura giving him back the engagement ring. After many fights and apologies they end up getting married at the blind school in Sleepy Eye.

Married life seemed simple in the beginning. They had their little squabbles and misunderstandings like most couples, but it was Almanzo's illness and stroke that tested their marriage in a way it had never been tested before (Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow). Almanzo is left paralyzed and becomes so depressed over how things have turned out that he refuses to try and learn to walk again. They decide to sell their house and move to Minneapolis with Eliza Jane. Then a tornado hits the house, leaving it in ruins. In the middle of all this turmoil, Rose Wilder is born, but Almanzo and Laura can’t fully enjoy the birth of their first child because of all the problems they are having. Laura eventually gives up and retreats to bed, which gives Almanzo the motivation to decide to walk again. He builds a new home with the help of Charles, for his family to stay in Walnut Grove.

That would not be the last test of their marriage. In A Child with No Name, the Wilders welcome their son, but the child dies unexpectedly. And they also become the surrogate parents of Jenny Wilder after Almanzo’s older brother Royal dies (Times Are Changing). Rose is kidnapped in the episode Bless All the Dear Children, and while at first Laura doesn’t blame Almanzo, who was watching Rose at the time, when Laura fears they will never find her she does blame him for leaving her unattended.

Through to the very end, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder is the feisty, red-head that we first met in the Pilot movie. Yes, she has grown into a beautiful woman who is married with children, but she never shies away from speaking her mind. She stands up to Mrs. Oleson, rivals for Almanzo’s affection, and the railroad. She leaves the place she has called home for many years after it has been destroyed, but she does it with her head held high, marching next to her husband, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.”

January Featured Book of the Month

Well, since it's half-way through January I thought I might post this month's featured book from my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection.

On the Way Home is one of my favorites. This book is Laura's account of the Wilders' journey from De Smet, SD to Mansfield, MO where they would settle at Rocky Ridge Farm and live out their remaining years. Rose is just seven years old and has been living with her grandparents because both her parents have been stricken with diphtheria. Then her father suffers a stroke and never regains his full strength. With these hardships and crop failures, the Wilders decide to move on and settle in the Land of the Big Red Apple.

On the Way Home is filled with Laura's observations from the Wilder's travels where she shares the sites, the weather, the day's events, and the people they met. In Rose's introduction--which sets the scene for the book--she talks of how Laura made daily notes in a little "5-cent Memorandum book". These notes are what became On the Way Home. Maintained in the same diary format as the original notes, this book will make an excellent addition to your Laura Ingalls Wilder Library.

And the survey says...

Life seems to have gotten away from me since planning for the holidays. Here's hoping I'll have more time to dedicate to this blog in the near future.

In November and December we asked which is your favorite Little House on the Prairie Christmas episode. A Christmas They Never Forgot barely beat out Christmas on Plum Creek to take the honors, followed closely by the Christmas scene from the Pilot.

A Christmas They Never Forgot takes place during Season 8 after the Cooper children have been adopted by Charles and Caroline. A very pregnant Laura, Almanzo, the Ingalls family, and Hester Sue plan to spend the holidays together. Hester Sue brings Mary and Adam back as a surprise and everyone is excited to see them again.

Caroline, Almanzo, Laura and Hester Sue all share Christmas stories from their past while the entire group is snowed in by a blizzard leaving the little house on Plum Creek filled to capacity and overflowing with love and the joys of the season.

Look for a new survey coming soon.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What Would Laura Think of the CPSIA?

While modern-day issues don't often make their way onto these pages, I think about all of Laura's fans and all the wonderful TV shows, movies, and theater productions that have come about as a result of the Little House books, and can only wonder what Laura might have thought about this law if it were enacted when she was an aspiring author.

Children's author, Elysabeth Eldering--whose State of Wilderness, Book 1 of the Junior Geography Detective Squad series I reviewed here--turned me on to information regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) that President Bush signed into law in August 2008.

Publisher's Weekly has written an article about the negative impact to the children's book industry that compliance with this law will ultimately bring.

CPSIA can only be described as a law where good intentions have gone astray. Instead of targeting the true culprits--toy manufacturers whose products manufactured overseas have been recalled due to lead content and small parts unsafe for children--this ill-written law will cover "all consumer products intended for use by children 12 and under. That includes books, audiobooks and sidelines, no matter where they are manufactured, even though most books have lead levels that are well below the Act’s most stringent safety standards."

According to the Publisher's Weekly article, "The CPSIA dictates that each children’s book SKU, shipped to retailers, catalogues and e-commerce sites as of February 10 must have been tested by a third-party lab to ensure that lead levels are below 600 parts per million. (Acceptable levels drop to 300 ppm in August and 100 ppm in 2011.) Some books also must be tested for phthalates, an acid used to soften plastic. The importer or domestic manufacturer must provide a Certificate of Conformity (usually posted on the Internet), and the product must be labeled appropriately. Older products on shelf must fall within acceptable safety standards but do not need to be accompanied by a Certificate, according to recent comments by the Consumer Products Safety Commission."

This translates into a huge additional cost for publishers; and if we think the book industry has seen a lull in this tough economy, just wait until February 10, 2009 when all these products are required to be tested.

Vivian Zabel of 4RV Publishing has provided the names and address of committee and subcommittee leaders on her Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap blog. These leaders have the ability to call for hearings on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and advance critical legislation to resolve some of the issues.

Please consider writing letters to these four men to express your concerns about the CPSIA as it is currently written.

Don't let good intentions gone astray squelch the dreams of aspiring children's authors. Don't let an ill-written law put small publishers out of business. Write your letter today!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin, Wisconsin

Look at the neat little announcement I found on Pepin, Wisconsin's homepage. Here is an overview of the events for the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Days events from Pepin's website:

On September 12th & 13th, 2009, this year's Laura Ingalls Wilder Days will celebrate the 142nd anniversary of Laura's birth in Pepin, and the 19th anniversary of this important and popular community event.

19th annual Pepin Laura Contest - Saturday afternoon September 12, 2009 from 12:30-3:30pm. Contestants demonstrate their talents and knowledge of the life and times and literature of Laura Ingalls Wilder as articulated in her stories.

Contestants enter in one of three categories: Little Sisters (ages 5 -7), Pepin Laura’s (ages 8-11), Big Sisters (ages 12-13).

The 8th Annual Fiddle Contest: Saturday afternoon September 13, 2009, from 3:30-6:30 pm. Cash prizes for winners in six divisions: Pee-wee (age 9 and under), Juniors (ages 10-13), Young Adults (ages 14-19), Adults (ages 20 & up) and open to all ages, the Trick & Fancy Division.

The festival will include demonstrations of traditional crafts such as blacksmithing, woodworking, hand-spinning and quilting, an art & craft market, plus food sales. Other activities include: pioneer games & activities for children, guided bus tours to Laura’s birth site. On Saturday night we will continue with the candlelight traditional crafts demonstrations followed by traditional music evening performances and a bonfire. The festival’s activities culminate on Sunday afternoon with the Grand Parade.

For more information you can visit Pepin's homepage at

Note: Graphic and overview of events taken directly from Pepin's website.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Alison Arngrim's trip to the UK a huge success!

Barnaby, a Little House on the Prairie fan for as long as I can remember, helped coordinate Alison's December 6th visit to the Hove Library in the UK, and also played tour host during Alison's visit. Here, Barnaby shares some of what happened during Prairie Day at the Hove Library:

"We had the theme tune playing for her arrival, and there was a big crowd of excited people, who had come from all over the UK (and America, Australia and other places too!) to see her! She read two chapters from On The Banks of Plum Creek, and read it beautifully, and did hysterical voices for Nellie and Mrs Oleson's characters! The crowd loved it, and afterwards Alison chatted away with everyone, signing autographs and posing for pictures - and then my phone rang, and ANOTHER radio station wanted to interview her live over the phone, so that was cool!

In the afternoon, we had our screening of "Bunny" with free popcorn! Alison sat at the front, giggling away at Nellie's nasty antics and that made the crowd laugh hysterically too! When Laura pushes Nellie down the hill in the wheelchair, everyone was roaring! Afterwards, Alison's Q&A was fabulous - the kids in the audience actually had the more intelligent questions, and she answered everything enthusiastically and was very down-to-earth and warm with everyone! A couple of little girls also tried on the Nellie wigs & bonnets, which was so funny!

We asked everyone to fill in Evaluation sheets, about how they enjoyed the day - everyone ticked "excllent" and in comments wrote how they want other cast members to come to Hove Library! I have to agree with them!!!!"

Sounds like they had a really great time. I'm still hoping that the cast makes its way to Malone, New York because that's probably the only site I'll ever be able to see.

Thanks goes out to Barnaby for allowing me to share this event with my readers.