Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Movie Review: The Christmas Pageant

Photo credit Hallmark Channel

Director Vera Parks (Melissa Gilbert) has a career that is going nowhere fast. Labeled as difficult, she gets fired from several jobs in a row. Her manager, Peter (Steve Lawrence) manages to get her a job directing a small town Christmas pageant.

Things go from bad to worse quickly. While some are eager to work with her, others are destined to fight any change Vera suggests. Vera has problems adjusting from her glamorous life in New York City to the simple life in Ashton Falls. Then she runs into her ex-fiancé, Jack Harmond (Robert Mailhouse). Vera is soon considering whether she should return to New York or stick it out in Ashton Falls.

If ever there was a movie that Melissa Gilbert was born to star in, it's The Christmas Pageant. If Little House on the Prairie was set in modern times, then the storyline from this movie would be a perfect fit. A woman whose life centers around her career and posh city life, ends up in a simple town where there is one mail carrier and everyone knows each other. It's not long before Ashton Falls and its people begin to grow on Vera.

A blend of funny and sweet, this is a classic Hallmark romance. With a superb cast and quaint setting you can't go wrong. If you are looking for a story that will touch your heart and remind you of the joys of being home, be sure to catch this movie on the Hallmark Channel in December. The next showing is Wednesday, December 21st at 10/9 Central.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Christmas Eve Prairie Visit by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Photo scene from A Christmas They Never Forgot

This is a poem I wrote a while back. It's my attempt at a bit of prairie humor. Enjoy!

A Christmas Eve Prairie Visit by Cheryl Malandrinos

Twas the night before Christmas,
and out on the prairie,
Not a creature was stirring,
not even young Carrie;
The stockings were hung on the mantle with care,
In hopes that Santa Claus would leave his fair share;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of heart shaped cookies sprinkled with sugar danced in their heads;
And Pa in his nightshirt and Ma in her gown,
Had finished their popcorn and turned the bed down.

When out by the barn there arose such a clatter,
Pa sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the kitchen he flew like a flash,
Looked out the window and then heard a crash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Caused Pa to blink twice at the broken fence down below,
When into his wondering eyes came the view,
Of a miniature sleigh,
and a tiny herd of pack mules,
With a little old driver,
so lively and quick,
Pa knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Slower than molasses his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
Move Clementine! Step it up Abner!
Get along Myron and Rupert!
Pick it up Gracie! Pick it up Millie!
Faster now Willie and Albert!
Past the rain barrel!
And past the lean-to!
Now make it around to the side of the house all of you!
As slow as a cow chewing its cud,
When asked to come home and they plop with a thud,
So around the house his coursers they sauntered,
With the sleigh full of toys,
and an old man who wandered.
And soon Pa heard on the side of the house,
The scratching and clawing of old man Claus.

As Pa hid behind the tree and was turning around,
Down the chimney Santa came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his toe,
And his clothes were in desperate need of a sew.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like Mr. Edwards just opening his pack.
His eyes were like Mary's!
His dimples like Carrie's!
His cheeks were like Grace's,
his nose like a cherry.
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a pout.
And the beard on his chin covered most of his face, just about;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And Pa thought the tobacco smelled mightly sweet;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed,
Like Ma's bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump,
A right jolly old elf,
And Pa laughed when he saw him,
In spite of himself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon let Pa know
he had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word,
But went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings;
then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh,
to his pack gave a wail,
And away they all meandered like a broken-winged quail.
But Pa heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all,
and to all a good-night!

Christmas at Plum Creek

Christmas at Plum Creek is one of those feel good, classic Little House on the Prairie episodes. Just like the many Christmases Laura Ingalls Wilder shares in her books, you get the feeling that while the Ingalls family didn't have much to spare, they were happy and felt blessed by what they had.

This episode opens in town, with some not often seen snow piling up around the edges of the buildings and bases of trees. Nellie wants Laura to sell her pony, Bunny, to her, but Laura refuses. Back at home, the family starts talking about Christmas and Charles tells young Carrie what Christmas is all about.

It soon becomes a Christmas of secrets. Each family taking out their secret stash of coins and not coming up with much. The family visits Oleson's Mercantile, where Charles and Laura spy Caroline looking at the cook stove and Carrie is captivated by a foil star hanging from the ceiling. Mary takes on a job sewing with Mrs. Whipple. Caroline works on a special gift for Charles, and Charles makes a deal with Mr. Oleson to refurbish a set of wheels so he will have enough money to purchase the stove for Caroline. He doesn't know, however, that Laura has entered into a deal with Mr. Oleson to sell Bunny so that she can buy the stove for her Ma.

If ever there was an episode about selfless love, Christmas at Plum Creek is it. Mr. Oleson is so great in this episode as he works to keep everyone's secrets, and how he helps Carrie buy the star that ends up on the top of their tree. My heart aches each time I see the Olesons arrive to collect Bunny. I also love the ending with Carrie putting the star on top of the tree and announcing, "Happy birthday, Baby Jesus!"

This is one episode you need to watch this time of year.

Archive of American Television Interview with Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls, LHOP NBC) was interviewed for the Archive of American Television. "Founded in 1997, the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television has conducted over 700 long-form interviews (over 3000 hours) with the legends of television."

You can find her interview at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/melissa-gilbert

She talks not only about her years on Little House On the Prairie, but her early career, her family, her production company, and many of the special people she's worked with.

Did anyone catch her recent movie on Hallmark Channel? I have it The Christmas Pageant on my DVR, but haven't watched it yet. If you have, what did  you think?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Survey - Which Christmas Episode Will You Be Watching This Year?

Our annual survey is back. I like to post it each year to see if the results change. There are four episodes that are set during Christmas and there is also a Christmas scene in The Pilot where Mr. Edwards crosses the river to deliver presents for Santa Claus to the Ingalls girls.

Feel free to vote in the poll in our sidebar for which episode you'll be watching this year. You can share your comments in this post.

Blizzard - Little House on the Prairie, Season 3

With Little House on the Prairie shot in California, there weren't many episodes where viewers saw snow--even though Walnut Grove was in Minnesota. Of the episodes that featured snow--The Pilot, Christmas at Plum Creek (Season 1), Survival (Season 1), Blizzard (Season 3), and A Christmas They Never Forgot (Season 8)--only two portrayed the challenges the pioneers faced on the prairie in the 1870's (Survival and Blizzard), and only one of them (Blizzard) is set around Christmas.

It is well known that Michael Landon often used real life for inspiration when writing episodes, and it is thought that when he wrote this one he drew inspiration from The Children's Blizzard that happened on the Dakota-Nebraska prairie in 1888. The day started out unseasonably warm and many children walked to school without coats and gloves. But that afternoon, with no warning, temperatures plunged and a blizzard ripped through the area. By the next morning, over 500 people had died, many children on their way home from school.

While this might sound a bit morbid, I always enjoyed LHOP episodes that portrayed the difficulties the pioneers faced on a daily basis. It wasn't done all the time, but when the writers and producers decided to create such an episode it was done well.

Blizzard is set on Christmas Eve. Carrie is a guest at school and Miss Beadle releases the children early because it has started to snow. What was only a few flurries when the children left, soon turns into a huge storm. When the women arrive at the schoolhouse, they are distraught to find the children gone. Isaiah and Charles return from hauling freight and come to the schoolhouse. They organize the men in town to begin searching for the children. The school is turned into a clinic, as children arrive and need medical attention. One man, Mr. McGinnis, who handles shipping and receiving in town, dies in the blizzard. All the families are back safe and sound except for Mr. Edwards and his children.

When Christmas Day arrives, the blizzard is over, and Charles rousts everyone to look for Edwards. The door to the school opens and in walks Isaiah and his children, Carl and Alicia. Everyone rejoices, but poor Mrs. McGinnis and her son, Henry, feel the loss of their beloved husband and father. Charles picks up the Bible from Miss Beadle's desk and recites the Christmas story for a dramatic ending.

Even though this is a sad episode, there is much to enjoy about it: the children's joy over the coming of Christmas; the way the town pulls together (Mrs. Oleson even offers coats, lamps and kerosene to the men without considering the cost); and the joyous reunion of Grace with her husband, Isaiah and the kids. Definitely a classic Little House on the Prairie episode.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Melissa Gilbert to Star in The Christmas Pageant on Hallmark

Photo credit: Hallmark Channel
Melissa Gilbert is starring in a new seasonal movie titled, The Christmas Pageant, on the Hallmark Channel. It premiers this Sunday, December 11th at 8 PM EST.
She visited The Talk (a show where her younger sister Sara is a co-host) yesterday to promote the movie. You can see the full episode at http://www.cbs.com/shows/the_talk/video/2174095228/the-talk-12-6-2011
In addition, she will be on the Today Show tomorrow to talk about it.

You can find out more information on the movie at Hallmark's website http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/microsites/cast.aspx?simscode=419-26631&pageid=3502&castid=3346.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Home is the nicest word there is."--Laura Ingalls, A Harvest of Friends

In the first episode of the first season of Little House on the Prairie, the Ingalls family settles in Walnut Grove, Minnesota and builds their little house on Plum Creek. Mary and Laura are asked by their Pa how they like their new room. They have a larger comfy bed to share and even their own window. Laura declares that she has decided something, "Home is the nicest word there is."

That's exactly how I felt after being displaced for a week because of the snowstorm. I can't tell you how comforting it was to move all our belongings back home a week later and settle into life as usual. We have a tendency to take for granted all that our modern world has provided us. After the storm, I could cook on my gas stove, but we couldn't run water or use the toilets. We had bottled water for drinking and plenty of canned goods, but I felt dismally unprepared again. This is now three storms over the past five months where we've lost power, and I still don't think I know how to prepare for them.
As we prepare for winter--hoping it's not as bad as last year's--my thoughts wander to the Ingalls family and how much effort it must have taken them to get ready to endure the cold months of winter while they waited for spring to arrive, so the growing season could start all over again. It certainly does make one appreciate 21st century life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: My Life As Laura by Kelly Kathleen Ferguson

In this witty and candid memoir, author Kelly Kathleen Ferguson shares her journey to follow Laura Ingalls Wilder's travels and how she discovers herself.

My Life As Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself is at times funny, at times heartrending, and always a reminder that every Laurafan has a story to tell.

This is the second memoir of a woman following the travels of America's favorite pioneer girl that I've read this year. Both have their strengths: they're funny, well-written, and engaging.

What I feel makes My Life As Laura different is that Ferguson was not just trying to reconnect with a role model from her past. She made a decision to leave her previous life behind, get in her car, and drive across the country to start over in Montana, where her pioneering spirit came alive and encouraged her to drive west from the "Big Woods of Pepin, Wisconsin, to the Great Plains of  De Smet, South Dakota," retracing the path where Laura comes of age.

The opening scene is probably one of the funniest in the book. Having decided to make her journey through Lauradom in period clothing, Ferguson ends up at the local Goodwill trying on prairie dresses. That dress gets a lot of mileage throughout the book, and her story of finding it, getting into it, and the mishaps with it along the journey are hilarious.

Like many of those interested in the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author doesn't care for Michael Landon's television version of things. I've never understood the disdain for the show by some, but the author spends three pages letting the reader know what's wrong with it: television Reverend Alden, Charles Ingalls, and especially Laura were not up to snuff. Nellie Oleson was okay until she was "tamed by Old Testament hot lovin'." Ouch!

Ferguson wasn't too fond of the whole blowing up the town thing; though not many of the fans were either. But at this point, we've heard the story both in Michael Landon's own words in his interview on A&E Biography, and from Kent McCray here, so we just have to deal with it. As I said in a recent article, there might be peace in the Middle East before we can expect it in Laura World when it comes to fans of the show and those who don't even wish to speak about it.

In what I feel is a brave move by Ferguson, she doesn't leave you with all her ducks suddenly in a row. This is no romantic tale, but like Wilder's classic books the author's story displays the optimism that comes from reconciling the past and holding onto hope for the future. I'm glad I have a copy of My Life As Laura in my Laura Ingalls Wilder library.

Title: My Life As Laura
Author:  Kelly Kathleen Ferguson
Publisher: Press 53
ISBN-10: 1935708449
ISBN-13: 978-1935708445
SRP:  $17.95

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Snowstorm Aftermath Day 4

It has been four days since the freak October snowstorm and we still have no electricity. We could have toughed it out at home if we could have used water and flushed the toilets, but since the sewer ejector pump isn't operational and we already have sewer water backing up into the basement (sounds lovely, hey?) we've been hanging out at the in-laws.

It's times like these that give you a glimpse into how much tougher it was to survive day-to-day back in the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Never mind the sun up to sun down litany of chores that kept the farmer and his household busy, being isolated during storms, not being able to get out to purchase supplies, and the cold that seeped in through any nook or cranny sure makes me happy I live in the days of indoor plumbing, electricity, and grocery stores every few miles.

Our hope is that power will return tomorrow night. Then comes the clean up. There are still several trees down in the yard that need to be cut and hauled away. We were able to save a lot of the food, but we'll have to truck everything back over to our house from the in-laws' place once this is all over. Who knows if we'll have Internet or cable once the power is back on. The girls are already climbing the walls after being out of school all week.

I honestly don't think I could have survived on the prairie like Laura did. It certainly makes a person appreciate her life more.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Living The Long Winter

Last year, Western Massachusetts got hit with snowstorm after snowstorm. We had record breaking snowfall in 2010, and spring couldn't come fast enough for any of us.

This year looks like it's going to shape up to be the same. As an unusually early Nor'easter blew through here yesterday, dumping 10 inches of snow in our area, downing power lines and falling trees, I couldn't help but think of The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Without power and with many roads impassable, I felt like Laura stranded in her house in town on the Dakota prairie.

Tonight's temperatures are going to drop down into the teens, freezing anything left on the ground. Luckily, daytime temperatures this week will be in the mid-40's or higher, so it should melt quickly.

I don't think I'm ready for seven months of winter.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can't We All Be Friends?

I'm in the midst of reading a memoir of a person who followed the travels of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I'm enjoying it. Every "Laurafan" seems to have his/her own story and I like learning of how others discovered Wilder and how that impacted their lives.

Spend enough time in Lauradom and you'll find distinct camps of "Laurafans"--those who love the classic family television show, Little House on the Prairie, and those who wish it never happened. At some point, I wish we could all shake hands and get along.

Why do those who don't care for Little House on the Prairie and how Michael Landon and his producers portrayed historical figures and events feel the need to rip it to shreds? Isn't the show just one more way to honor the legacy that Wilder left behind? Despite its historical inaccuracies, didn't the show capture the romantic, little girl view that Wilder portrayed in her books? I feel it did.

The book I'm reading has so far spent two pages decrying how television Laura wasn't anything like real Laura. Reverend Alden, Mr. Edwards and Charles didn't look like the real people any more than TV Laura did, and there was too much "histrionics and tragedy." Maybe the author gets it right about the histrionics, but I'm fairly sure the life in which the historical Laura lived had tragedy up the ying-yang, so is the problem with the show that it's not authentic enough or that it's too authentic? The author compares Little House on the Prairie to a soap opera. I've watched both genres of television. They are only alike in the fact that television allows you to suspend common sense if you're creating a great storyline. Remember in Season 9, Royal Wilder returns to Walnut Grove with a daughter named Jenny in tow and Almanzo tells Laura he hasn't seen his brother in 10 years. I guess he forgot that time right after Laura and he were married when Royal and his wife Millie dropped off their two sons (or should I say monsters) for the newlyweds to watch while they went off on a trip? But, Millie was dead by Season 9 and Royal was dying and they needed somewhere for daughter Jenny who no longer will have any family once Royal passes away (I guess Myron and Rupert died too) to live. Look at all that tragedy.

Perhaps it's because I discovered the books after the show and those books sparked my interest in Laura and Almanzo's real life that it doesn't matter to me that Little House on the Prairie and its creators went off into their own world to celebrate Wilder. Maybe I'm too forgiving of a medium that depends on action more than description and internal thought to propel the plot forward. I think they'll have to figure out peace in the Middle East before we can expect it in Laura World.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Spotlight: My Life As Laura by Kelly Kathleen Ferguson

Kelly Kathleen Ferguson needed to know—was connecting with her lifelong heroine the key to knowing herself? She decided to find out. She donned a prairie dress and retraced the pioneer journey of Laura Ingalls Wilder. From Wisconsin to Minnesota, South Dakota to Missouri, Kelly explored Laura’s past and her own. Part travelogue, part memoir and part social commentary, Kelly discovered how an adult relationship with a little girl, who lived in little houses long ago, can give a sense of purpose for today.

Read an excerpt!

I admit that the origin of the dress mandate was fuzzy at best. All I can say is the instant I decided to retrace the pioneer journey of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I knew I would wear a Laura dress. When I first envisioned this costume, my intention had been to browse online, haunt thrift stores, contact a seamstress, research historical garb, etc. What happened: I was leaving the next day and needed a dress.

That afternoon I scouted the local Goodwill, hoping for a miracle in the racks. Nope. I resigned myself to a vintage shop. As a general rule I dislike shopping in a place where a bored employee has nothing to do but stare me down. Help galls me, as I possess a toddlerlike insistence that I can do it myself. A poorling, I do not belong in the specialty spending bracket, and I hate telling people no, so I rank boutique shopping on the comfort par of wool sheets. Waiting until the final hour, I barreled into Mr. Higgins’Vintage Clothing & Costumes of Missoula, Montana, all bluster and little intention

Which explains why I was unprepared for this challenge posed by the owner.

“Do you want to dress like Laura the little girl,” she asked, scrunching up her face and tilting her head, “or Laura the adult?”

The proprietor folded antique bandannas on a display case while I processed. She looked somewhere between forty and eighty, youthful despite the crinkles. I had met her type a few times now, the western woman who could charge an alpine escarpment, dragging her giant dog while I clutched a scrubby tree and panted.

Her unexpected question, and inescapable inflection, made me realize that a thirty-eight-year-old woman dressing like a little pioneer girl was odd. And not odd in a quirky, adorable way, but odd in a Whatever Happened to Baby Jane way.

I inhaled the aroma of antique, steam-pressed sweat and rolled the dilemma around on my tongue, as though contemplating a flavor. This Laura dress issue was getting complicated. A basic getup began with the red calico worn by little girl Laura, but as Laura became a young woman, her wardrobe expanded. Passages detail her outfits—the brown poplin with her ostrich-feathered poke bonnet, her pink lawn, the black cashmere that became her wedding dress, but even if I chose an “adult” Laura dress, I would only be fifteen. At my age the real Laura was a farmer’s wife in Mansfield, and those clothes were not part of the Books.

To my relief, the owner had not asked why I needed a Laura dress, a question way too involved for me to answer right then. She didn’t even blink. As it turned out, my request was routine—in Missoula, Montana, people needed Laura dresses all the time. There were Frontier Days, reenactments of homestead life, and you never knew when Hellgate High might rally for another production of Oklahoma! The more we discussed options, I found myself grateful for professional help. A prairie newbie, I had not considered that I would need a bonnet and apron, or even known that the nineteenth-century style was Victorian. The owner said she was usually buried in calico and gingham, except she had just made a huge donation to the historical society.


We leafed through her back stock of cowgirl outfits and flapper dresses with fringe. When I saw the rack of clown costumes, I began to panic a little. After an extensive search, we were able to roust out three dresses remotely suitable, not one of them a red calico or brown poplin with an ostrich-feathered poke bonnet. I took my options into the dressing room and drew the flowered curtain

Number One was a tiny yellow calico that had the girth of a sock. Number Two, brown with vanilla piping, looked doubtful (size and style-wise), but I tried anyway. It reached an impasse at my knees. I remembered yet another reason why I dislike vintage clothing stores: nothing ever fits. I confronted Number Three, my last chance—the floor-length, turquoise-blue-flowered dress with a scooped neck trimmed in ribbon and lace, cap sleeves, and a fluorescent-orange dust ruffle. Blue was Mary’s color, not Laura’s, but I rationalized that Laura had always wished she could wear blue. I chanted Laura’s mantra when facing the unavoidable—it couldn’t be helped.

In the end, the primary selling point of the blue dress was this: it zipped.

Read the reviews!

“Hilarious, perceptive and true, a homespun story as genuine as the ones that inspired it.”

—Judy Blunt, bestselling author of Breaking Clean

"You won’t detect any drawl in this Southerner’s voice. Ferguson is witty and edgy in a way that feels entirely fresh. This is stunningly, sharp, pitch-perfect writing."

—Neely Harris Lohmann, editor-in-chief of mental_floss magazine

"Grab your bonnet and plunk down in the sunny grass. Ferguson captures the high spirits and struggles of life on the prairie, then and now. A tribute to Wilder, a search for truer self, a twenty-first pioneer journey, My Life as Laura shows us how the books we love lead us to the life we need."

—Eric LeMay, author of Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese





Kelly Kathleen Ferguson is the author of My Life as Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself, a humorous memoir in which she retraces the pioneer journey of her lifelong heroine—in a prairie dress. Her work has appeared in mental_floss magazine, Poets & Writers, the Gettysburg Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Brevity, among other publications. She has an MFA from the University of Montana, and is working on a PhD in creative nonfiction at Ohio University. Kelly is a Libra, Cancer rising, Aquarian moon. She is Irish/French/German, lapsed Roman Catholic, and right-brained. Kelly once received a minority scholarship for a machinist certification program at Durham Technical Community College. When she was four, she ate a mothball and had to have her stomach pumped, or she would have died.

Visit her online at www.kellykathleenferguson.com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Survey Results - Beyond the Prairie

Wow! We had a four-way tie for this last survey question. We asked, "Did you purchase Beyond the Prairie on DVD?" Two said yes. Two said no. Two said not yet, and two others said they hoped Santa would bring it.

I don't know if my review changed your mind for or against. Feel free to let me know.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Movie Review: Beyond the Prairie, Part 2: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder (2002)

Beyond the Prairie, Part 2 continues the story of the Wilder family. Having set out in a covered wagon, they cross the Missouri River and leave Dakota behind.

While optimistic about their new home, troubles plague them. Almanzo's health continues to impair his ability to clear  the land and plant the apple trees left behind by the previous owners. They must hire help, but have no way to pay anyone other than in firewood. Rose is bullied at school and begins keeping to herself. She runs away and gets lost in a cave.

As the years pass, things improve for the Wilders, until Laura is called back to De Smet to visit her beloved father on his death bed.

A curious thing happens between the two movies. At the end of Beyond the Prairie, narrator Tess Harper, who plays an older Laura, tells viewers that the Wilders traveled for six weeks and arrived at their final destination in Missouri. Amazingly, Rose Wilder, who was a toddler (probably about 2) when she left De Smet, is school age at the beginning of Beyond the Prairie, Part 2. Now, I love Skye McCole Bartusiak's portrayal of the highly intelligent, moody Rose Wilder, but I thought the rapid aging of characters was reserved for soap operas. This seems to be one of those cases where the storyline dictates throwing common sense out the window.

Meredith Monroe and Walton (Walt) Goggins reprise their roles as Laura and Almanzo Wilder in this movie. Their performances are stellar, despite the inaccurate and somewhat lackluster storyline they are handed. We see the young couple thrilled to discover the new home they hope to turn into a prosperous farm. We ache with them when they believe the $100 bill Laura had tucked into her writing desk has disappeared, just as we rejoice when Laura finds the money that had slid into a crack. We are inspired by all the hard work they do to get their farm up and running, and we feel their anxiety when Rose is lost.

An interesting exchange takes place between Laura and a stranger on the wagon train. A young immigrant stops the Wilders on their way to the river, and encourages them to come into their camp for conversation. This is where the Wilders meet Beth and George Magnuson and their son, Charlie, who is played by a young Cody Linley (Jake Ryan, Hannah Montana). This immigrant approaches Laura at night when she is writing and asks her what their story is. She mentions the death of their son. In The Ghost in the Little House by William Holtz, it is said that the Wilders never spoke of their son's death. Rose didn't even know she had a brother until after her mother died. I find it curious that she would speak of something so personal to a stranger.

A tiny nitpick for the house on the Wilders' new property having a rusted box spring mattress that was left behind. While spring mattresses replaced the timber frames late in the 19th century, it's highly unlikely many pioneers would have been able to afford one, especially if they were living in a house as small as the first one that stood on what would be named Rocky Ridge Farm. It's kind of like spotting a red metal toolbox on the floor when Manly (Almanzo) brings Bessie (Laura) to see their new house under construction before they're married in the first movie. Also, for some reason, I recall there being a scene where Laura asks Rose if she took the $100 from the desk when they discover it missing. That's not on the DVD. It might not seem like an important scene, but just like the tense scenes between Rose and her mother where Laura insists she stop speaking her made up language or when Laura tells Rose she must return to school even if the girls are mean to her, it shows the somewhat difficult relationship they had in real life.

The viewer doesn't get a chance to see all of what happens in the near decade they lived at Rocky Ridge before the new house is built. As the first harvest of apples begins to ripen, Laura imagines for Rose what she thinks their future will look like, and suddenly we have this picture of the new house waiting for its coat of white paint. We get a chance to see the Ingalls family one last time and for Pa and Flutterbudget to share a moving moment.

What I find most interesting in Beyond the Prairie and Beyond the Prairie, Part 2 is how many people encouraged Laura's writing. Her own father toward the end of the movie instructs her not to forget about the pioneering era and not to let Rose forget it either. While poetry and writing articles seemed to come naturally for the real life Laura, it's truly not until she is encouraged by Rose, as a successful writer, that Laura considers penning her now classic books. Perhaps the writer and producers of the movie are attempting to show us that this was who she was meant to be all along, but I didn't get that feeling from the historical information I've read.

Overall, Beyond the Prairie, Part 2 has its place in the world for Laura fans. Those who don't care for the liberties Michael Landon took in producing Little House on the Prairie probably aren't going to be fond of this movie either. For those of us who grew up loving the television show, Beyond the Prairie, Part 2 and its predecessor is another way for us to honor the legacy that Laura left behind.

Actors: Terra Allen, Alandra Bingham, J. Scott Bronson, Courtnie Bull, Lindsay Crouse
Directors: Marcus Cole
Writers: Stephen Harrigan
Producers: Dori Weiss, Robert M. Rolsky, Stephen Harrigan
Format: Color, DVD, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: November 23, 2010
Run Time: 96 minutes
Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder, Little House on the Prairie, NBC) is working on a production of Laura's life. It has been shown at some of the festivals celebrating the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Hopefully it makes it to TV or directly to DVD soon.

Movie Review: Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls (1999)

Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beyond the Prairie, Part II were released as TV movies in 1999 and 2002, respectively. These movies have been packaged together and released by Paramount on one DVD (2010) for Laura fans. I will be reviewing each movie separately, as they both cover several years.

Before I go any further, let me state I have one pet peeve about both movies: the title. If you are going to put the word "true" in your title, then you should follow real life events and not exercise creative license all over the place. Now, I have clients who write fictional autobiographies of historical figures, but they clearly place, "A Novel," on the cover, so we all know the book is a healthy blend of fact and fiction. I don't even mind that the writers and producers of Beyond the Prairie opted to exercise creative license. Just don't put that four-letter word in the title, and all is good.

In this first movie, the viewer is introduced to a teenage Laura, living on the Dakota prairie with her family: Ma, Pa, Mary, Carrie, and Grace. A prairie fire threatens their home, and they work together to save it. Laura and Pa saddle up to go help others who might have been threatened by the fire. On the way back, they stumble upon a claim with a house frame on it. A man's jacket is hanging over one of the beams, and a curious Laura lifts an envelope out of the pocket to discover an odd name, "Almanzo." Pa scolds her, but Laura can't get that name out of her mind. She even talks to Mary about it one evening as she is describing the setting sun to her blind sister.

We move swiftly along to where Laura leaves home for the first time for her first teaching job. Then the town of De Smet is cut off  from the rest of civilization by the Hard Winter, and Almanzo and Cap Garland travel many miles to find seed wheat to save the town from starvation.

Laura and Almanzo marry and have a daughter. Things won't be happy for long, though. Almanzo and Laura lose their first crop to a hail storm. They have no way to pay their debts. They battle diphtheria. Laura gives birth to a second child, but he soon dies. Then a fire destroys their home.

Now living with the Ingalls family, Laura and Almanzo decide to move to Mansfield, Missouri. The movie ends with a tearful goodbye.

When I first watched this movie on CBS, I truly enjoyed it. Granted, it didn't capture me the way Little House on the Prairie did in the 70's and 80's, but I'm older, and probably a lot pickier since I've learned more about Laura and Almanzo's real life. I have to admit, however, it was challenging to see new actors in roles that had been portrayed on television for so long by others.

This Ingalls family and the townsfolk of De Smet were more serious, sometimes sullen. Charles and Caroline actually have a fight in front of the children about his desire to move farther west. That said, I feel this was probably much more realistic than the romanticized version of events that we got from the classic books or the television show.

I've loved Richard Thomas in everything else I've ever seen him in, but he didn't quite make it as Charles Ingalls. Some of the lines he delivered were totally flat. I also didn't care for how certain aspects of his character were portrayed. When Laura is asked to teach school by Mr. Bouchie, she tells Pa that she won't do it. Charles pushes/guilts her into it by saying the family needs the money, especially with Mary in college. In an early scene from the movie, the devout, religious Charles said the word "damned." Granted, faith did not play a role in this movie at all--something else I have a problem with considering the time period and the people--but anyone who has studied the Ingalls family knows their faith was a big part of who they were.

Meredith Monroe, who I loved as Andy on Dawson's Creek, delivers a good performance here as Laura. I don't care for the fact that we have a blonde Laura, considering how in the books Laura was jealous of Mary's golden hair. In this movie, Mary is a red-head. It's odd. This Laura does not seem as feisty as one would expect, but she's older and that feistiness has turned into a desire to live her life as she pleases.

Laura's love of freedom is a bit warped in Beyond the Prairie. After accepting the teaching position from Mr. Bouchie, Laura tells Almanzo she feels she's been, "sold into slavery." If we consider that this takes place less than twenty years after the end of the Civil War, it's not an appropriate statement. It seems modern-day thinking has wormed it's way onto the De Smet prairie. Though in real life Wilder later admitted she didn't enjoy teaching, she felt a responsibility to her family and paying jobs for women were few. After her teaching time is over, she tells Almanzo her life is going to be her own and no one is ever going to tell her what to do. I feel the not wanting to say "obey" in her wedding vows is a bit embellished here.

Walt Goggins captures the shy, quiet Almanzo Wilder well. At moments he's a bit awkward, but out of all the main characters, I felt his was the most realistic portrayal. I also appreciate that Beyond the Prairie showed how Almanzo's illness permanently impacted his health, which is part of why they decided to leave De Smet.

Having watched Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder for the first time since it  originally aired on television, I'm not as enamored with it as I was then. Part of that is because Little House on the Prairie is now available on DVD and I can watch my beloved show whenever I wish, instead of needing a TV movie to give me my Laura fix. I do, however, believe it has its place in Laura fandom, because it portrays a more realistic view of what the pioneers endured. The historically accurate fashion is a bonus, and filming in Utah and Texas made it look more like a prairie than California, where Little House on the Prairie was shot.

In the end, you're either going to like this movie--which I do--or be bothered by the creative license that was taken with Laura's life.

Actors: Terra Allen, Alandra Bingham, J. Scott Bronson, Courtnie Bull, Lindsay Crouse
Directors: Marcus Cole
Writers: Stephen Harrigan
Producers: Dori Weiss, Robert M. Rolsky, Stephen Harrigan
Format: Color, DVD, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: November 23, 2010
Run Time: 96 minutes

Friday, September 16, 2011

Laura's "Sweet Memories" to Feature "All About Laura" Program During Wilder Day

Laura's "Sweet Memories" will be featuring the "All About Laura" program presented by Little House Researcher, Colleen Ferries during Wilder Day in Mansfield, MO.

Join Reverend Jim and Ms. Ferries on Sept. 17 at noon and again at 3:30 p.m for this special event. Ferries has been presenting these programs for thirty years to school children, civic groups and senior centers.

For more details, visit the Laura's "Sweet Memories" blog at http://laurassweetmemories.blogspot.com/2011/09/special-wilder-day-2011-programs.html

Laura's "Sweet Memories" is located across from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Public Library and next to Mansfield Drug, just off the town square, 107 N. Business 60.

To read my interview with Reverend Jim you can visit http://lauralittlehouseontheprairie.blogspot.com/2011/08/interview-with-reverend-jim-proprietor.html

New Survey: Did You Purchase Beyond the Prairie on DVD?

In 1999, CBS produced a TV movie titled Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder. A teenage Laura Ingalls (Meredith Monroe) is living on the South Dakota prairie with her Pa (Richard Thomas), Ma (Lindsay Crouse), and her three sisters. This is also where she meets the man she will eventually marry, Almanzo Wilder, played by Walton (Walt) Goggins.

She leaves home for the first time to teach so that she can help pay for her blind sister, Mary (Barbara Jane Reams) to attend school. Eventually Almanzo asks for her hand. The newlyweds' life isn't easy, however. They deal with crop failures, illness, the death of their infant son, and their house being burned to the ground.

Narrated by an older Laura (Tess Harper), this is a reflection of those years in her life.

The second movie, Beyond the Prairie, Part 2, was released in 2002. Also narrated by Tess Harper, this picked up right where the last movie left off. Having struggled in South Dakota, Almanzo, Laura, and their daughter Rose, journey by covered wagon to the Land of the Big Red Apple- the Ozarks of Missouri.

With only $100 tucked into Laura's writing desk, the young family begins their new life. But it isn't an easy life. Almanzo's illness and stroke has left him too weak to tend the rocky land. They must hire help, but can offer little in means of wages. A precocious Rose doesn't fit in well at school and runs away.

Amidst trying to get settled in Mansfield, Laura receives word that her beloved Pa is dying. She journeys back to De Smet to say her good-byes.

Many fans were not aware of these movies when they first came out. As discussions came about on PrairieTalk about them, more fans were looking for copies of the movies. In 2010, both movies were released on a single DVD. While some (like me) are disappointed that these movies claiming to be the "true" story of Laura Ingalls Wilder contain many inconsistencies to her real life, I am still glad to have this DVD as part of my collection.

Have you purchased it or do you plan to? If not, can you tell us why?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

PrairieFans.com Celebrates Twelfth Birthday!

I would like to congratulate Lennon Parker and his staff as they celebrate twelve wonderful years on the Web. Twelve years ago today, they launched PrairieFans.com. This site is "dedicated to honoring the legacy of our favorite American pioneer, Laura Ingalls Wilder."

Bonnet heads around the world are treated to cast interviews, latest news, and a plethora of historical information. 

If that's not enough to give you your Laura fix, you can stop by PrairieTalk, their forum where you get a chance to interact with other Laura fans.

Happy 12th Birthday, PrairieFans! May you celebrate many more years of sharing Laura's legacy with her fans.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jane Seymour Signature Clothing for Sale

Though I haven't spoken about it much here, another of my favorite shows from the pioneering era is Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Filmed in the 1990's, this show featured Bond girl, Jane Seymour, as a female doctor from Boston, who journeys out west to Colorado Springs to open a practice. The prejudice she receives in her early days in Colorado are similar to what she experienced in Boston. Slowly the town warms up to her, and she spends the next several years caring for the townsfolk of Colorado Springs, coping with tragedy and celebrating triumphs along the way.

Jane Seymour has an endless list of talents and is also involved in many charitable causes.

A friend of mine from the Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman forum has recently listed a few items from the Jane Seymour Signature clothing line on eBay. Most of these are new without tags. Please visit http://www.ebay.com/sch/katdawson/m.html to view these items.

In addition, she is selling some books on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/shops/storefront/index.html?ie=UTF8&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&sellerID=AWK8HHU9MSRM9.

Amber is a talented author in her own right. I have read several of her titles and hope to own all her books soon. You can visit her online at http://amberstockton.com/

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy 126th Anniversary Laura and Almanzo!

I'm going to do my best to keep this site updated. I might be returning to the workforce, but I'll give it my best shot.

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls and Almanzo James Wilder were married on August 25, 1885. Chapter 32 of These Happy Golden Years tells the story of the preparations that were being made in anticipation of Laura and Almanzo's upcoming wedding. Ma and Laura were sewing while Almanzo was building their house.

They were going to be married on Thursday, so Pa drove into town on Tuesday and came back with a new trunk for Laura. Ma and Laura placed her things in the trunk that afternoon. After Almanzo drove away with the packed trunk on Wednesday, Laura realized she would be leaving home for good tomorrow. The family had a fun night for the last evening that Laura would be with them.

The next day, Almanzo and Laura stood before Reverend Brown and were married, beginning many years together: years of joy and sorrow, tragedy and triumph.

We remember this special couple on the 126th anniversary of their wedding. Laura and her legacy have brought me many wonderful friends, for which I feel blessed. I hope Bess and Manly are dancing together in heaven.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interview with Reverend Jim, Proprietor of Laura's "Sweet Memories"

Opening Day

I have a special treat for you today. We're talking to Reverend Jim, the proprietor of Laura's "Sweet Memories," a store in Mansfield, Missouri. I met Jim online when he contacted me to tell me about his blog. I added him to my blogroll here and have visited from time to time. I hope you will too. It's definitely like taking an online trip into Laura's world.

Welcome to Laura’s Little Houses, Jim. It’s wonderful to have you here. Can you start off by telling our readers a bit about yourself?

I’ve lived in Mansfield for 10 years now. Before that I had a 40 acre farm about an hour east of here. I raised fruits and vegetables there for about 5 years, selling them in a farmer’s market. Before that I lived in the big city of Chicago and served as a church pastor. The only thing I knew about Laura Ingalls Wilder was that she wrote some books that were the basis for a nice, moral TV show. So, I was a late-comer to her writings, but now I consider myself a big, big Laura fan!

What’s it like living in Mansfield, Missouri, where Laura Ingalls Wilder spent most of her adult life?

Mansfield is a nice small town, with a population around 1300. I live in the oldest house in town, built in 1881; before the town was even here! Laura was a frequent visitor to my house when she belonged to a Women’s Club. I’ve even met some people who knew her! Living in Mansfield gives you a real close feeling to Laura; like you’d expect to meet her on the street. There are some special perks; like visiting Rocky Ridge Farm during Christmastime. And it’s always great to experience the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Festival as a “Home Boy”!

What made you decide to set up Laura’s “Sweet Memories?”

Before opening the shop I had run a B&B out of my home for about 7 years. I really enjoyed meeting the people. People come from all over the world to visit here. So, when I decided to move on to something new, I knew I couldn’t give up my connection to Laura. I wanted to give all those 50,000 annual visitors an experience that was much more memorable. So what better way than to open the only souvenir shop in town? And I wanted to offer some old-fashioned confections to meet the desires of the children. But now I’ve found that the grown-ups like that old-fashioned candy as much as the kids!

I’m guessing with a name like that you have tons of sweets for people like me who give into their sweet tooth from time to time. What are some of the special products visitors will find inside?

Besides all the handmade souvenirs, the shop provides its visitors a glimpse into an old-time candy shop. There are buckets of hard candies of all sorts, loose candies in bulk, and handmade fudge from the Ozarks. At last count there were over 100 different flavors and varieties! And there are a few sugar-free candies and varieties of trail mix as well. Candies start as low as 5 cents a piece in my shop, so you don’t have to spend a lot to meet the craving for a taste of nostalgia!

I understand that Laura’s “Sweet Memories” also has historical pictures and displays. Can you tell us about some of those?

Rev. Jim and Doc Baker (Kevin Hagen) at Rocky Ridge Farm

I have put together some 200 pictures covering the combined lifespan of Almanzo and Laura, which covers 100 years of history. The pictures on the “Wall of Memories” show history of advertising, entertainment, personalities and events pertaining to the United States, from the years 1857 through 1957. And there are printed sheets telling what happened to some of the people Laura wrote about in her books. I’ve also dedicated a corner to a historical display, which has old-time tools like Pa Ingalls or Almanzo might have used. Visiting Laura’s “Sweet Memories” is almost like visiting a mini-museum!

The tagline on your website - http://www.laurassweetmemories.com/ – says, “Dedicated to Preserving the memory of Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Since you’re located in Mansfield, I’m sure this is important to the town’s tourism. What does this mean to you personally?

As I see it, Laura’s writing is a national treasure. I think more people can identify with what pioneer life was like because she wrote about her life as a pioneer. And because of the manner in which she described things in her books, we can identify closely with her personality – like we know her personally. It would be a tragedy to lose her to our modern times. She once said, “Looking back helps us see what lies ahead.” Today, with our fast paced lifestyles, we need to learn how to live our lives based on what has gone on before us. We need to learn from the past, so that we don’t make the same mistakes again. Laura’s legacy should be that we learn how to live a simple life from reading her books.

You started a blog this year - http://laurassweetmemories.blogspot.com/. Why did you decide to make that move?

I felt that I had more to offer than just a shop full of good things for people to take home with them. I wanted to share some of my feelings along the way and open a new line of communication with them.

What are some topics readers will find on your blog?

I like to give folks an idea of what it’s like living in Mansfield. In addition to informing people about life in Laura’s hometown, I have begun to include some old-timey recipes. Some of the recipes are from my family’s hand-me-down collection, which spans over one hundred years! I also have links on the blog site to other contributors who have a Laura connection. I hope to expand those in the future.

You don’t sell your products online. Why not? Wouldn’t that help you reach more people?

My main intent is to have people come and visit Laura’s hometown and have a “Laura” experience. Selling products is secondary. It may help keep the lights on for me, but my main emphasis is to have people go home having had a great time visiting us. Anybody could sell candy or souvenirs online! But I am thinking about compiling some recipes into a book form and, if there is enough interest, I may offer that online as well as in the shop. I will decide on that soon and share that decision on my blog. (Interviewer's note: I think that's a fabulous idea. Sign me up for one!)

Where do you see Laura’s “Sweet Memories” in five years?

I hope I’ll still be here entertaining folks. Since my shop is inside my home, I’m limited to the space within the main room that it is housed. So I don’t know how, but I’ll try to cram more things into the shop! I’m always learning more about Laura, Almanzo and Rose and the “Little House” books; so I suppose those things will show up inside the shop too.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I feel a great responsibility to carry on Laura’s legacy and provide a quality shop for people to enjoy. And I hope that many will join me on my blog as well.

Thanks for your time today. God bless you.

Thanks for joining us today, Jim. We wish you much success.

Lennon Parker Interview Now Online

In case you missed Little House historian Lennon Parker's interview on "Getting to Know You with Susan McCray," the interview now appears on the site's show archives. Visit http://susanmccray.com/Archives2011.html to listen in.

Monday, August 8, 2011

PrairieFans Creator to Appear on Getting to Know You with Susan McCray

Lennon Parker, creator of Prairiefans.com, will be a guest on Susan McCray's "Getting to Know You" radio show on August 16, 2011 at 9:30 PM Eastern/6:30 PM Pacific time at ksav.org. Lennon will talk about his acting career, Little House and more!

Born in Los Angeles, California, Parker debuted in the entertainment industry at the age of 5. He left the business as a teenager to complete his education. Since his return, he has been active in local and national modeling and acting. You can learn more about him by visiting his offical website at www.lennonparker.com/.

The daughter of Academy award-winning composer, Harry Sukman, Susan McCray, was also the casting director for Little House on the Prairie. With experience in various aspects of the entertainment industry, McCray, has worked on some of television's most beloved classic shows: Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, and Hawaii 5-0, to name a few.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Laura Reflects on Freedom

"...Americans won't obey any king on earth. Americans are free. That means they have to obey their own consciences. No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself. Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do, and there isn't anyone else who has a right to give me orders. I will have to make myself be good.

Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought. This is what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. 'Our father's God, author of liberty--' The laws of Nature and of Nature's God endow you with a right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God's law is the only thing that gives you the right to be free."

Little Town on the Prairie

Happy Fourth of July!

Wisdom of Ma

"If wisdom's ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care.
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where."

Written in Laura's album after an altercation with Nellie Oleson

Monday, June 20, 2011

Survey Results: The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

Our readers were almost evenly spread out on when or if they would be purchasing a copy of The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure.

Here are the results:

30% said they didn't plan to read it
25% said had pre-ordered it, while another 25% said maybe
20% of our readers said they would buy it once it's out

The majority of our readers not opting to purchase the book surprised me. The majority of the reviews on Amazon have been favorable. I'm one of those people who usually buys anything to do with Little House on the Prairie or Laura Ingalls Wilder anyway, but I think this is such a new idea in the Laura World that it would be of great interest to many.

Thanks for participating in our survey. We'll have a new one coming soon.

New Book for My LIW Collection: Mary Ingalls on Her Own

I really shouldn't buy books. I have more books in  my office than I can shake a stick at. Yet, when it comes to anything Little House or Laura Ingalls Wilder, I usually plunk down my hard earned cash.

My friend Marilyn reviewed this title for us in 2008 here. Since then I've had the book on my wish list, but never bought it because I had so many other books to read. When I placed a recent order with Amazon, I needed to reach $25 for free shipping, so I picked up the book.

I'm not sure when I'll get to read it, but you'll get a chance to read my thoughts once I do.

What's the latest Little House or Laura Ingalls Wilder purchase you've made?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vintage LHOP Autographs and Plates up for Sale

Lennon Parker, administrator of PrairieFans.com and the Little House on the Prairie forum, Prairie Talk, is making available for sale some of his LHOP collection.

Cards were signed during a cast ball game from the 70's. Photos (never been published) also come with the sale. The autographs were signed from the cast as children/teens which make them rare. Signatures include ...Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush, Kyle Richards (now on a reality show with sister Kim Richards), Melissa Gilbert, Johnathan Gilbert, Alison Arngrim and Bonnie Bartlet as the only adult. As a bonus a signed picture of Brian Part (Carl Edwards) will be included.

Also available is a set of six Little House plates with hangers.

For more details please visit http://www.pioneerontheprairie.com/prairie_forums/boards.php?topic=683&board=_pc

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Complete Little House Nine-Book Set Remains a Bestseller at Amazon

Spending time around Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie fans, I've heard some interesting things over the years. One thing that came up recently is the continued popularity of the Little House series with a generation of children whose regular book picks include paranormal and fantasy titles.

When browsing through Amazon's bestsellers over the past couple of weeks, I discovered that The Complete Little House Nine-Book Set can sometimes be found on their Most Wished for list in Children's Books.

If I visit the set's Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Little-House-Nine-Book-Set/dp/0064400409/ it is listed as a bestseller in the Number 1 spot in two categories: Children's Books, Literature, Short Story Collections (that is an odd category for these) and Children's Books, History & Historical Fiction, Fiction & United States, 1800s. It also ranks as #20 in Children's Books, Literature, Classics.

Why is it that the books remain popular when GenYers and GenZers are coming farther and farther away from the times in which Laura lived? Perhaps one of the elements is what Dean Butler spoke of during our interview. He mentioned that Little House was old when it was new. That's one of the glories of historical fiction. But I also have to believe it largely has to do with the way the books are written. Wilder shared the pioneering experience--its struggles and triumphs--but as Dean pointed out, she did so with a healthy dose of romance and optimism. The sense, he said is, "that if we’re together, and if we stick together and work hard, we will survive and we will do well. We love each other so we are going to stand up for each other and help each other."

I know that's what attracted me to the show, and then to the books. Perhaps our children are looking for those ideals too.

What about you? Why do you believe the books remain popular? Do you know children who are reading them right now? What do they say about them?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

New LHOP Fanfiction Story Posted

I uploaded a new fan fiction story to fanfiction.net that takes place during Season 7. It is set on Christmas Eve. The residents of Walnut Grove get stranded at Nellie's hotel and share some favorite memories.

Here's an excerpt:

Mr. Oleson stood and walked over to Percival, patting him on the back. "Where were we? Oh, yes, who would like to share a story of Christmas past?"

In the corner, the voices of a husband and wife rose in discord. The woman was nudging him forward as he tried to convince her he wanted to do anything but what she wanted him to do.

"They hear from me all the time," he said.

"Telling them a story from your childhood will mean so much more than a sermon," she replied.

As they came to stand near one of the two turned up kerosene lamps, Anna and Reverend Alden were lit enough for everyone to see them. His head shook and his hands were raised in protest. One of her hands patted his chest. Her wide smile danced along with the sparkle in her eyes.

Nels waved him over. "We would love to hear a story from you, Reverend."

Reverend Alden shrugged. "I can't guarantee it will be any more engaging than one of my sermons."

The crowd laughed. Some people walked about getting a sandwich or a cup of coffee before settling in to listen.

Reverend Alden felt a bit strange without his pulpit. He didn't seem to know what to do with his arms, so he stuffed his hands in his pockets.

"As some of you know, my father was a minister. While I could never hope to be as good a speaker as he, whatever skills I have in sharing the Word of God came from him."

"We love you, Reverend," said a man from the back of the room.

Reverend Alden's lips curled into a smile. "Thank you." He pulled his hands out of his pockets and wiped them on his black jacket.

"I was at the seminary when I received a wire that my father was gravely ill. School was to be let out at the end of the week for Christmas, but my mother asked that I return home immediately. I knew then that my father couldn't have much time left."

Reverend Alden lowered his head. He breathed deeply and a few moments passed before he continued. "I took the first stage out of town, but I was a few days away. I spent most of that time praying I would make it home before my father passed on."

People around the room held their loved ones a little tighter.

"When I finally arrived in town, I ran all the way home. My mother met me at the door. It was as if she had aged ten years since I went away. She had cared for my father for months. I almost didn't go to the seminary because I didn't want to leave her to care for him alone, but she insisted I answer God's call to the ministry. She told me that it would do my father good to see his only son follow in his footsteps.

"Standing in front of her, seeing her hair scattered about her face in a loose bun, her shoulders bent from exhaustion, I was sure I never should have left.

She embraced me and said I should go see my father right away."

You can find the entire story at http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6821882/1/S7_Christmas_Memories

I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review: The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

I believe every fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whether that person is a fan of the books, the TV shows and movies, or both, has a Laura story: the moment when she discovered Laura, connected with her, and how it changed her life. Wendy McClure shares her story with readers in The Wilder Life:  My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.

A senior editor for Albert Whitman & Company, McClure brings the reader through her journey as an adult of rediscovering these beloved classics from her childhood.

A year after the death of her mother, McClure's eye catches the yellow spine of Little House in the Big Woods in her apartment. She picks the book off the shelf and begins reading. Her boyfriend, Chris, brings home a new set of the Little House books and together they read, explore "Laura World," and embark on a trip by car to visit the many Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites across America.

The Wilder Life is both touching and irreverent. The author's lifelong obsession leads her on this terrific journey into a world that is familiar, yet, altogether new. From tracking down a "crock and dash" churn so she can make butter like Caroline Ingalls, to wading in Plum Creek; from purchasing numerous sunbonnets, to meeting girls competing in the Laura-Nellie Look Alike Contest at the Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove, MN; and from a surprise during her trip to De Smet, SD, to the meaning found in a visit to the Wilder farm in New York, readers will enjoy following McClure's travels.

This is the kind of book that you have to consider as a whole. There are moments when it feels like McClure is poking fun at the whole "bonnethead" obsession and some of the people she meets along the way. She occasionally uses words that were not made for family TV back in the 70's. She also has her own vision of what faith meant to the Ingalls family versus how it was portrayed on television in Little House on the Prairie and the 2005 mini-series of the same name.

But when you take those moments and blend them into the entire narrative, you come up with a funny, engaging, and moving look into the impact Wilder's books had on McClure's life, and how Wilder's legacy continues to touch the lives of people everywhere. I am thrilled to have The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure as part of my Laura Ingalls Wilder book collection.

Title:  The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
Author:  Wendy McClure
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (April 14, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1594487804
ISBN-13: 978-1594487804
SRP:  $25.95 (Hardcover)

Will also be available in a Kindle edition and as an audio book.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Survey: Do you Plan to Buy The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure?

At the Little House on the Prairie forum I belong to, we've been talking about The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure.

This book is due to be released on April 14th and is already available for pre-order from Amazon.

Here is the product description from Amazon:

Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder — a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places McClure has never been to yet somehow knows by heart. She traces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family—looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House — exploring the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura’s hometowns. Whether she’s churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of “the Laura experience.” Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder’s life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West. The Wilder Life is a loving, irreverent, spirited tribute to a series of books that have inspired generations of American women. It is also an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones — and find that our old love has only deepened.

Publisher's Weekly gave The Wilder Life a starred review, saying, "Readers don't need to be Wilder fans to enjoy this funny and thoughtful guide to a romanticized version of the American expansion west."

Our new survey asks if you plan to purchase a copy of the book. I will be adding this to my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection. How about you?

Dean Butler is Looking for Feedback

Hello all,

Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder, Little House on the Prairie (NBC)) is looking for your feedback. As you might remember from our previous conversation with Dean about this Mega Pack, his company produced additional bonus content for this complete LHOP DVD series.

Here is what Dean would like to know:

"Do you or other members of the Prairie Fans community see any difference between the episodes presented in the Mega Pack from the episodes as presented in the separate season DVD collections?"

Prairie Fans is a site dedicated to honoring the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Prairie Talk is the site's forum. If you are a member of Prairie Talk and have comments for Dean, you can leave them in the Announcements section, under the post started for this topic. If you aren't a member, you can leave your feedback here.



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Children's Authors and Illustrators Week

Children's Authors and Illustrators Week is celebrated the first week of February. "During this week, members of the Children's Authors Network visit schools, libraries, and children's shelters all over the country."

For more information, please visit:

Children's Authors Network! (CAN!)
23291 Mobile St.
West Hills, CA 90307

Phone: (818) 615-0857

E-mail: caiw@childrensauthorsnetwork.com
Web: http://www.childrensauthorsnetwork.com/