Thursday, December 27, 2012

Little House, Long Shadow Book Discussion - Chapter 5

After focusing her attention on the Little House books in the classroom, author Anita Clair Fellman turns her attention to readers at home. She quotes many fan letters to Wilder where readers shared how much the Little House books meant to them. She goes on to discuss, like she did in the previous chapter, about activities based upon the books that readers partake in. This chapter goes a bit further, adding in the evolution of the Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder home sites and the annual events dedicated to Wilder's legacy.

This chapter gets into a larger discussion about the Little House on the Prairie television show from the 70s and 80s and its role in renewing interest in the books, and the desire to learn more about the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Chapter five briefly revisits how Native Americans are portrayed in the books, and how Wilder's books helped create a mythical, romantic idea of the settling of the West. One Native American reader found how Indians were depicted so disturbing that he wouldn't read them to his children, knowing he would need to interrupt the story to provide "editorial asides."

Fellman indicates by examples that non-white readers had a harder time relating to Laura and her family than their white counterparts, and how relating to Laura makes a powerful connection for readers, which creates a special place in their hearts for Wilder's books. This chapter also discusses the appeal of the Little House books to homeschooling families.

As this chapter proves, fans love the books for a variety of reasons.

My thoughts: This is probably my favorite chapter from the book, so far. While we owned the entire Little House series, it wasn't until Michael Landon brought Wilder's books to life on the small screen that I had any interest in learning more. And at that time, I preferred the television show to the books. I tried reading Little House on the Prairie and couldn't finish it. As a young adult, I would sit down with the Little House books again, starting at the beginning, and then reading the rest of the books before moving on to Donald Zochert's Laura to learn more about Wilder's real life. This created a life-long curiosity of anything about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family.

Getting a chance to learn why people love the books was wonderful. I was a bit surprised by how non-white readers viewed them, because in ways, children are similar, so I thought they would connect on some plain. Not always so.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Little House, Long Shadow Book Discussion - Chapter 4

Fellman focuses Chapter 4 on how the Little House books have been used in the classroom: the reading of them and the activities based upon them. Through the 1990s, the Little House books were very much a part of the classroom scene in the United States. Changes in curriculum, changes in the textbook publishing industry, and recent government regulations affecting the teaching of reading are cited by Fellman as making the books less ubiquitous in classrooms since 2000 than they were in the previous fifty years.

The author admits it is impossible to make the connection between what children read in school and their beliefs as adults. She hopes to show, however, that the reading of Wilder’s books at school has made “individualist interpretations of the texts possible and appealing.” Because teachers like how these books teach values without preaching, the Little House books are seen as embodying universal truths, and as providing a “valuable introduction to an important chapter of U.S. history.”

One very interesting thing that Fellman mentions is that the acceptance of the books didn’t come out of nowhere, but that conditions were right for the books to make their mark in the educational system as well as in individual homes. We are taken back to the early 20th century to where young people’s leisure reading tastes were formed by experts in literature instead of the children; where children’s services in public libraries and libraries in elementary schools were being introduced; and Macmillan established the first children’s book division in 1918. After WWI, editors of children’s books were appointed at major publishing houses. 

During the Progressive Era, there were efforts to impose standards on what children read for pleasure. “Basal materials, with carefully chosen reading selections keyed to children’s cognitive and social development and accompanied by step-by-step guides for the teacher,” were used from the 1930s into the early 1990s. Schools became an important market share for publishers. The Little House books became a favorite with librarians, teachers, critics, and children as a result. Readers identified with Laura. The books also grew with them. Because of the positive elements in Wilder’s books, experts saw them as appropriate to include in basal readers. In the 1980s and 1990s, basal readers came under attack. Teachers were relying on them too much. So now, teachers were encouraged to get children to read complete books by reading books aloud in class.

Fellman touches upon the discontent with history and social studies texts used in American classrooms. Some teachers support historical fiction to help teach history to students, claiming the need to harness the power of narrative when teaching children. The Little House books are considered, “the best loved of all American historical fiction.” The challenge for some teachers is the books’ depiction of Indians. This brings the discussion back to basal readers and the particular selections from the Little House books that are used. In the end, teachers are important to what students derive from assigned materials. Fellman states there is ample evidence to suggest that “the choices of books that teachers make for their classrooms, access to those books, and the presentation and discussion of them affect the responses expressed by the children.”

My thoughts: As someone who works in publishing, I found a lot of this chapter interesting. It also helped me to understand how education has changed since I was in school versus how it is for my children now. Teachers remain influential in what children get out of the books and excerpts they read at school.

The one thing I keep coming back to, however, is what I feel is an unfair depiction of the books as being prejudiced against Indians. The fears Caroline felt toward Native Americans was based upon real danger at the time. Laura's fascination with a culture different than her own never made me feel she looked down on anyone. As a child, she was curious about how these people lived and what they were like.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Thanks to a friend at a Little House on the Prairie forum I belong to, I learned that the Main Street Theater in Houston, Texas is running a production titled, A LITTLE HOUSE CHRISTMAS. Adapted for the stage by James DeVita, and based on Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this production is directed by Katie Harrison.

Details from their website are as follows:

Main Street Theater -
Chelsea Market

4617 Montrose Blvd.

Weekend Family Performances
Saturdays at 1pm and 4pm
November 10, 17, 24 and
December 1, 8, 15 & 22, 2012

Friday at 11:30am November 23, 2012
Open to the Public

School Matinees Monday - Friday
November 7 – December 21, 2012
9:30am, 11am and 12:30pm
Open only to groups from Public, Private or Home Schools

For more details and to purchase your tickets online, you can visit the Main Street Theater at

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mary Ingalls Society Founded

Sarah, from Sarah's Notebook has announced the formation of Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School Mary Ingalls Society. You can read more information on her blog at

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Little House, Long Shadow Book Discussion - Chapter 3

This post continues our discussion of Little House, Long Shadow by Anita Clair Fellman.

Chapter 3 - Revisiting the Little Houses

This chapter starts off with Wilder's talk at a Detroit Book Week celebration in 1937, where she discusses how wonderful her childhood was because she had seen it all: the frontier, woods, Indian country, frontier towns, unsettled country, homesteading and farmers coming in to take possession. Fellman is quick to point out that Wilder did not journal or keep a diary when she was younger, so her books are based upon memories. A recent book on memory is stated as saying that memories aren't fixed but are evolving generalizations of our past. It claims we reshape memories as we go through life. And this is what Fellman says happened with Laura. What she understood about past events underwent changes due to personal and political events and her experience of writing the books. She says Wilder viewed her past differently depending upon what was going on in the wider world.

The author mentions the influence of Frederick Jackson Turner, a historian who wrote the paper, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." He believed that the frontier changed the pioneers as much as they altered the landscape they passed through and settled. He focused on the economic forces and the everyday actions of the farmers instead of the violent confrontations between the lawless and the law to counteract the 19th century interpretations of the frontier West created by stock characters of "explorers, Indian fighters, cowboys, desperadoes, prostitutes, and gamblers." The conquering of the West became, Fellman states, the source of much of American pop culture.

Fellman claims Wilder is one of those who interpreted her own experiences through this mythological frontier that was "omnipresent in many forms of popular culture in her day." Laura included more of the home life and female perspective of the frontier than men did, and therefore, it provided a unique twist to the frontier saga. Wilder and Lane believed individualism was a good thing, and the Little House books, according to the author, helped strengthen the myth of the West as the main source of American individualism. The books also perpetuated the myth of self-reliance. Historian Stephanie Coontz states families see their own histories in terms of self-sufficiency and individual effort, ignoring the role of government and community. She says, "It would be hard to find a Western family today or at any time in the past whose land rights, transportation options, economic existence, and even access to water were not dependent on federal funds."

The author mentions on page 77 that she realizes Wilder and Lane are writing fiction, but there are still political implications to the stories, and as time went on, Wilder, Lane and their publisher said these stories were true. Lane is quoted as saying, "They are the truth and only the truth." The rest of the chapter is dedicated to tracing definite patterns of the changes Laura and Rose made.

My thoughts:

I can definitely see how your impression of your past changes as you age. You become more aware of things you might not have realized or perhaps misunderstood as a child. What I am not yet convinced of is that our view of the West is more symbolism than substance.

Though I didn't make specific mentions of any of the changes Fellman discusses in her book, one of the things she drives home is that the Ingalls family wasn't as isolated as portrayed in the books. Being an author of children's books, I always thought the other characters were omitted simply because too many would bog the story down and not focus on the main characters--the Ingalls family. This is especially true for The Long Winter. To add the Masters, who stayed with the Ingallses during the long winter, would have added too many characters in the story and could have confused readers.

You'll find Part One of this discussion here.

Part Two of this discussion is here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Little House, Long Shadow Book Discussion - Chapter 2

This continues our discussion on Little House, Long Shadow by Anita Clair Fellman.

Chapter 2 - Creating the Little House

This chapter starts with Rose's return to Rocky Ridge Farm in 1928. Having spent time in her beloved Albania, she returned to help Laura with her writing, but also to recover from how the political landscape was changing Albania. As a freelance writer, Rose struggled with having to churn out story after story to make a living. Unlike her mother, who had many story ideas, Rose had difficulty coming up with ideas. It appears at this time, she was trying to start over. She wanted to build up her financial reserves so that when she was ready to leave the farm again, she would be free to do it.

Lane put herself into debt to build the English-style stone cottage for her parents to live in--despite Laura's lack of enthusiasm for the idea. The author claims Rose felt no matter how much she did for her mother, it was never enough. It mentions a recurring dream Laura had about traveling a frightening road in a dark wood, which she interpreted as anxiety about money. According to the author, Laura's fear of doing without affected her relationship with her daughter.

When Lane's investments failed in 1931, her travel plans were thwarted. During the Depression, Laura opted to use her savings to pay off the mortgage on Rocky Ridge, but that also meant the Wilders had no money to retire. Lane resented having to churn out articles and stories to make a living. Neither Laura or Rose saw writing as a way out of their plight. "Pioneer Girl" was written during this time. Notations on the manuscript, according to Fellman, indicated Laura expected Rose to edit and embellish the work.

Little House, Long Shadow then goes on to talk about how "Pioneer Girl" was rejected, but the Wisconsin years were turned into a children's book titled, "When Grandma Was A Little Girl," which was accepted for publication by Knopf. This would be picked up by Harper and Brothers after Knopf closed its children's division, and was published in the spring of 1932 as Little House in the Big Woods. Rose was originally thrilled by the book's success, but watching her mother achieve public recognition while she was being forgotten by friends was hard for her.

Fellman shares much of what we already know about the writing of the books and the difficult relationship between Rose and her mother. It also talks about some of Laura's articles for the Missouri Ruralist on the topic of mother-and-child relations. While Laura didn't believe in whippings, she also didn't believe in oral displays of affection. By the end of the 19th century, female advice authors, however, would be talking about how a child must in every way be made happy. Rose seems to have accepted this new idea of love and emotional support easier than her mother. The book also talks about how even though Lane wished her mother could go it alone on her books, Rose couldn't pull away and Laura may not have been confident enough to let her.

Rose completed "Let the Hurricane Roar" late in 1931. It covered much of the same ground as On the Banks of Plum Creek, but showed Lane's feelings of isolation and her idea that people are pretty much on their own. Not only was this a story about individual courage, it was about the current economic depression: how life is never easy and "our great asset is the valor of the American spirit." Laura, of course, resented Rose using this material without permission and Rose was crushed by her mother's lack of support.

The last thing I'll say is that the book takes a look at how the country is changing at this time. The children's book, The Little Engine That Could, was released in 1930, and illustrated the can do spirit of the Hoover administration. The Wilders had been Democrats for many years, but they didn't like the shift in philosophy that came about with the New Deal. Lane became angry over government farm-relief programs that implied individuals were incapable of handling setbacks on their own. The Wilders couldn't fathom the idea of cutting down so-called crop surpluses. Fellman also mentions how Mansfield was affected by the Depression, and that the town had been struggling even before the crash.

My thoughts:

Why would you build your parents a house and go into debt doing it if they never seemed to want it in the first place? They seemed quite happy in the home Almanzo built. Once Rose left, they moved right back into it.

Why did Laura's success impact Rose in such a way? Was it because Rose struggled to come up with ideas, while her mother had them in spades? Was it just her nature? 

Is it any wonder Laura was upset with Rose over her using material she planned to use in her children's series? Especially since she didn't ask first. It would be one thing if Rose told Laura she planned to do it, but to keep her in the dark like that was a bit sneaky.

The Wilders' concern over a shift in political philosophy makes me think of when Ronald Reagan claimed he didn't leave the Democratic party, it left him. As ideology shifted, the Wilders couldn't relate to this desire to have the government step in and assist. No matter how you lean politically, I think we can all relate to how that might happen if a party you believed in started promoting something that went against your grain.

You'll find Part One of this discssion here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Little House, Long Shadow Book Discussion

I've been reading Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Impact on American Culture for the last few weeks. It's taking me a while because I am reviewing other books for different blogs, and because the chapters are long.

I've written up chapter reviews of this book and started a discussion at one of the online forums I belong to. I thought it would be interesting to add these reviews here. I hope you'll chime in with your thoughts.

Chapter 1 - Growing Up in Little Houses

In the Introduction, we learn that author Anita Clair Fellman grew up with the Little House books and read them to her children. At some point, however, she discovered that Rose Wilder Lane was not only a libertarian, but also collaborated with her mother on the books. Instantly, she wonders if some of Rose's ideas made it into those books. As she ponders this, Ronald Reagan is elected president, and she is struck by the "individualist, antigovernment nature of his rhetoric." She was impressed by how Americans responded to it. It also made her wonder why such antistate ideas resonated for them, which makes her wonder if the books' appeal has something to do with the vision Reagan was talking about. Could children's books, "by virtue of their content, emotional appeal, ubiquitousness, and iconic status in the culture" help explain a shift in political assumptions by the populace?

There are several more pages to the Introduction, but most of them have to do with how the author approached her research: viewing the Wilder and Lane papers at the Herbert Hoover Museum, looking at books by authors like Ayn Rand, sales of the Little House books, autobiographical and biographical sources, etc.

Chapter One spans a great deal of time. It talks not only about Laura and Rose growing up in their little houses, but also about Caroline and Charles, Mary, and how Laura found herself acting as the older sister once Mary went blind. It mentions Carrie, Grace and Freddie, but only in that they were members of the family and that Mary went to live with Carrie after Ma's death. It talks about the somewhat tense relationship between Laura and Ma, and how Laura was not exactly the "good" daughter. It also discusses how Laura wrote for the Missouri Ruralist and with Rose's help broke into the national market. It spends time talking about Laura and Rose's relationship: that Laura always saw her as a child--no matter how old she got, how Rose helped shape her mother as a writer, Rose's feeling that she must take care of her elderly parents and provide for them, etc.

This chapter ends in 1926, with Lane leaving the farm and traveling to Albania, now that she felt her parents were secure enough. It also mentions that in 1925, Laura was performing research for her autobiography or some form of historical fiction.

My thoughts:

This author isn't the first one to mention some type of political agenda. What we tend to forget as we look upon past events is that people are products of their time. Independence and self-reliance were necessary for Laura and her family. It took a lot of courage for any person--male or female, married or single--to move West into a territory they knew little about that was filled with dangers of all kinds. Some authors have claimed Caroline was a racist because she didn't like Indians. The fact of the matter is that Indians were a real danger to white settlers. Charles was squatting on Indian territory in Kansas. If I were Caroline I would be chewing my fingernails off with worry. Kansas was already a hot bed of problems without the treaty issues.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Favorite Little House on the Prairie Episodes

Little House on the Prairie ran for nine seasons and three post-series movies. Fans have been clamoring for a reunion show for years, though as time passes it seems less likely that it would be possible. Some of the actors have passed away--Michael Landon, Kevin Hagen, Dabbs Greer, Merlin Olsen, Victor French--and some have moved on to other careers.

There are fans who like the earlier episodes where the Ingalls girls are still young and growing up. Others, like me, enjoy the older seasons where Adam Kendall and Almanzo Wilder are a part of the town. And every fan has his or her favorite episodes.

"Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow" remains my favorite, though there are others that come in a close second. It is television drama at its best, and contains so many elements of what made the show a success. A two-part episode, it is partially based on the tragedies the real Wilders experienced as a young married couple.

Almanzo contracts diphtheria. Ordered to bed by Doc Baker, when a hailstorm threatens his wheat crop, Almanzo races out to save it and ends up suffering a stroke. The real Almanzo experienced this as well. Unlike his TV counterpart, he would suffer its effects for the rest of his life. In addition, the real life Laura also contract diphtheria, and Rose was sent to live with her grandparents, Caroline and Charles, while they battled their illness.

Now paralyzed, Almanzo (played by Dean Butler) is unable to make the mortgage payments. Deeply in debt, and with a very pregnant Laura no longer able to work, the Wilders are concerned about their future. Things go from bad to worse when Almanzo's older sister, Eliza Jane arrives to take care of Almanzo.

Feeling lonely, Eliza Jane hampers Almanzo's recovery, hoping she can find him a proper job in Minneapolis that he can perform from his wheelchair. Almanzo and Eliza Jane make plans to sell the house in Walnut Grove, but a tornado destroys it. In real life, the Wilder's home was destroyed by a fire not long after the death of their infant son.

The loss of the house on top of Almanzo's illness and the thought of leaving the place that has been her home for most of her life, cause Laura to give up and retreat to bed. Almanzo decides he must be the husband that Beth needs. With the help of Charles, he learns to walk again, and then begins rebuilding a small home in Walnut Grove.

Beth and Manly have an emotional reunion in front of the frame of their new home, where Laura sees Almanzo walk for the first time since his stroke. "Welcome home, Beth," announces Almanzo before they embrace.

I hope you'll consider sharing your favorite Little House on the Prairie episodes with us.

Currently Reading: Little House, Long Shadow by Anita Claire Fellman

I tossed around the idea of purchasing this book because it seems very controversial and not necessarily within my belief system of what the books are all about. The reviews have been diverse--some loving it, some not so much.

Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Impact on American Culture by Anita Clair Fellman looks at how Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane shaped the famous Little House books for their readers based upon what was going on in their world at the time. Having read only the first four chapters, I am reserving my thoughts until I've finished the book. It is obvious the author spent a great deal of time performing research to provide a well-rounded picture for her readers.

 Hardcover: 376 pages
Publisher: University of Missouri Press
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0826218032
ISBN-13: 978-0826218032

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Farmer Boy Goes West by Heather Williams

Farmer Boy Goes West by Heather Williams is the story of fourteen-year-old Almanzo Wilder going West with his parents, older sister Alice, and baby brother Perley.

Mother receives a letter from her brother George, who lives in Spring Valley, Minnesota. He encourages the Wilders to pay him and his new wife a visit to see if they would like to move there.

It takes months of preparations, but once winter is over, the Wilders board a train to start their journey to Spring Valley. Royal and Eliza Jane are being left behind to watch the farm in Malone, New York. Almanzo is excited to go, but he knows he will miss his horse, Starlight.

Farmer Boy Goes West is a superb addition to the Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House legacy. Meant to serve as a sequel to Wilder's Farmer Boy, this story of a teenage Almanzo going West captures all the excitement and adventure of the original Little House books, while providing some insight into the man Laura Ingalls would eventually marry.

A healthy blend of fact and fiction, Williams captures the essence of the original Little House books, while maintaining an air of her own style. The events in this book are condensed to two years instead of the five years it actually took for the Wilders to make their move from New York to Minnesota. She also took liberties with some of the historical characters. I don't feel that had a negative impact on the story, but those who are sticklers for facts might have an issue with it. I'm hoping not, since this is a truly delightful story. The only thing that really made me stop for a second came in the second chapter, when it said, "One day in January, soon after Almanzo's fourteenth birthday..." Almanzo's birthday is in February. While Wilder did play around with the Wilder siblings' birthdays in Farmer Boy--making Almanzo closer in age to his older brother and sister--as far as I recall, she didn't change the month Almanzo was born.

As with any great story, things aren't always easy. Almanzo ends up having to attend a new school in Minnesota. He has to make new friends. He misses Starlight and Royal, maybe even his bossy older sister, Eliza Jane. He likes a girl at school, but is shy and has no idea how to get to know her. His Aunt Martha isn't very happy about jamming the Wilders into their tiny home.

There are also some neat surprises and interesting historical characters added in, but you won't know what or who those are unless you read the book.

I'm thrilled to add Farmer Boy Goes West to my Little House collection.

Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (February 14, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061242519
ISBN-13: 978-0061242519
SRP: $15.99

I purchased a copy of this book from Amazon. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reading Now: Farmer Boy Goes West by Heather Williams

Almanzo Wilder is going west! He and his family are moving all the way from their cozy farm in Malone, New York, to the bustling town of Spring Valley, Minnesota. Almanzo can’t wait to explore, but life in Spring Valley isn’t what he expected. The Wilders have to stay with relatives in a small, cramped house where Almanzo’s aunt Martha is cold and unfriendly. Almanzo longs for the freedom he had back home, and he especially misses his horse, Starlight. Even as he makes new friends at school and helps his father pick a plot of land for the family to settle on, Almanzo can’t help but wonder: Is Minnesota the right place for the Wilders? Or do they belong in New York? First introduced in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Little House book Farmer Boy, Almanzo Wilder’s adventures continue in Farmer Boy Goes West.

A couple of my Little House friends and I are reading this book together. It ends up being an online book club, where we talk about the book we're reading, and in this case, discuss how the fiction differs from the history.

We're two chapters in right now. Almanzo's parents have decided to visit Mother's brother, Uncle George, and his new wife in Spring Valley. Father wonders if they should move west too. Almanzo is excited to go, but he is sad he must leave his beloved horse, Starlight, at home. Royal and Eliza Jane will stay in New York and take care of the farm, while Father and Mother, Alice, Almanzo and little Perley make the long trip.

I'm enjoying this book so far, but it's odd to have a sequel coming so many years after the original--and by a different author. Luckily, the author is a Laura fan, so she is writing in a style that captures the essence of Laura Ingalls Wilder's work.

A full review will follow.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review: Mary Ingalls on Her Own by Elizabeth Kimmel Willard

Mary Ingalls has the opportunity to attend the Iowa College for the Blind, so she can learn skills to make her more independent and expand her education. It is difficult to leave her beloved family behind in Dakota Territory, but at least Ma and Pa come with her to make sure she gets settled.

The school is a large place with many helpful friends and teachers. It takes time for Mary to adjust to her new life, but she learns quickly. What she doesn't understand is why Mattie, the girl who resides in the room next to hers, hates her so much. Determined not to let Mattie's sour attitude affect her, Mary continues her studies. But one day Mattie pushes her too far, and Mary discovers Laura might not be the only feisty Ingalls sister.

Elizabeth Kimmel Willard weaves a fascinating story of the first few months Mary Ingalls spends at the Iowa College for the Blind in Mary Ingalls on Her Own. Similar in style to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this book places the focus on Laura's beloved sister, Mary, as she seeks a way to become more independent. This is also a story that shows Mary confronting her feelings about being blind and the loss of the plans she had made before losing her eyesight.

Willard blends historical figures, fictional characters and the everyday life at the college during the time Mary attended and comes up with a superb story that imagines what Mary's experiences might have been. Part of me wishes the author had chosen to tell the story from a solid first person point of view--since this is such a personal story--but she followed Wilder's lead and told it in third person. That caught me off guard at first because in the opening paragraph it talks about Mary's eyes being a mix of anxiety and excitement, and I kept wondering how Mary would know that. That said, I was captivated from the time I opened the book until I read the last word.

I truly enjoyed Mary Ingalls on Her Own and am thrilled to have it as part of my Little House collection.

  • Reading level: Ages 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060009055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060009052

  • I purchased this book in 2011 to add to my personal collection. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    DVD Review: Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder

    This highly anticipated DVD release produced by Legacy Documentaries in association with Family Friendly Productions, tells the story of the legacy that Laura Ingalls Wilder created through her writing.

    Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder is an in-depth look into how Laura came to write her famous children's books and the legacy she has left behind. Through interviews with historian and author John E. Miller, author Pamela Smith Hill, and Tanya Hart, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kansas, viewers learn not only more about the time period in which Wilder lived, but also how her books came to be published, and about her relationship with her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.

    Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder, Little House on the Prairie, NBC) co-produced, directed and narrated this moving story of Wilder's life. As with Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, this production includes: live reenactments, animated colored Garth Williams illustrations from the Little House books, historical photographs, original artwork, and readings from Wilder's books. Those with an interest in this time period will find information on how Wilder's work--her articles and her books--preserved this history for generations to come, and how her work brought to life the equal partnership between frontiersman and frontierswoman. What I especially enjoyed was the time spent discussing the collaboration between mother and daughter and the evolution of both women's careers.

    Actress Katherine Cannon reads the excerpts from the Little House books, and the beautiful music of Jay Asher adds so much to this production. For those of us who enjoyed the music of David Rose from the Little House on the Prairie television series, Asher's work makes us feel in familiar territory. With his own unique style, Asher captures the vibrant, romantic, sometimes difficult life that Wilder lived.

    Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder also includes bonus material, the best of which is the Director's Diary, where Butler takes you through the experience of shooting this documentary in various locations. Other bonus items are the trailers for Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura and the Pa's Fiddle Project.

    Every Laura fan will want to own a copy of this beautifully created story of Wilder's legacy. This DVD is on sale at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, MN. Visit them online at or contact them toll free at 1-800-528-7280.

    I purchased a copy of this DVD from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, MN to share with my family. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way. 

    Saturday, August 25, 2012

    Happy Anniversary Bess and Manly!

    These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the story of Laura and Almanzo's courtship and their wedding that took place a few days early to avoid the church wedding his sister and mother wanted to plan.
    Almanzo and Laura--Manly and Bess--spent 64 years together--until Almanzo passed away in October of 1949. The First Four Years was a book Laura wrote about the early years of their marriage. It was not published in her lifetime. Roger Lea MacBride, Rose Wilder Lane's heir, discovered the manuscript with Rose's belongings after her death in 1968. A decision was made to publish the manuscript without any editing, so the tone of the book is a bit darker than that of the other Little House books--though it does end on an optimistic note.
    Those first four years of marriage were difficult ones. Laura did not want to be a farmer's wife, but she consented to try it for three years. Those were years of joys and years of sorrows. A hailstorm destroys their crop and their debts begin to mount. Their daughter Rose is born and that year they are able to make enough to pay off some of their debts. A hot wind destroys their crops the next two years. They contract diphtheria and Almanzo suffers a stroke. Laura gives birth to a son, who dies a few weeks later. Their home is destroyed by a fire and they are forced to work for room and board at a neighbor's place. But Laura is sure their luck will change.
    Eventually Bess and Manly left De Smet, SD and traveled to Missouri, where they built a place they called home for the rest of their lives. Rocky Ridge Farm was where Laura penned her famous children's books.
    The pioneering era ended long ago, but the pioneer girl who traveled across the prairie by covered wagon is still remembered. Her books teach us about the history of this country and the many things that make it wonderful. The Little House books display the importance of family, faith, love, perseverance, optimism, and respect. When I had the chance to speak to Dean Butler, who portrayed Almanzo Wilder on Little House on the Prairie, he mentioned how the stories are evergreen. These timeless stories resemble the values that remain just as important today as they were when Laura lived through them and wrote about them.
    Happy anniversary Laura and Almanzo. Through your lives, we have learned--and hope to learn--so much.

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    New Laura Ingalls Wilder Related Products for My Collection

    I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to books by and about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. Today, I treated myself to some neat Laura related titles.

    I was on the fence about this book for a while. The reviews are as controversial as what the book seems to be. I'm not sure how I'll feel about it once I've read it, but I was afraid it might go out of print if I waited too long.

    Here's the official description:

    Fellman shows that Laura Ingalls Wilder's magical Little House series contained a covert political message that made many readers comfortable with the resurgence of conservatism. Because both Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, opposed the New Deal programs being implemented as they wrote, their books use family history as an argument against the state's protection of individuals from economic uncertainty, emphasizing the Ingalls family's isolation and resilience in the face of crises. Fellman argues that the books' popularity helped lay the groundwork for a negative response to big government and a positive view of political individualism, contributing to the acceptance of contemporary conservatism while perpetuating a mythic West. Fellman also explores the continuing presence of the books--and their message--in modern cultural institutions from classrooms to tourism, newspaper editorials to Internet message boards.

    I wanted to buy Farmer Boy Goes West from the moment it came out. Almanzo is a favorite character of mine--we can thank Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder, NBC) for that. This book follows Almanzo's story as his family decides to leave New York and move west.

    "Almanzo Wilder is going west! He and his family are moving all the way from their cozy farm in Malone, New York, to the bustling town of Spring Valley, Minnesota. Almanzo can’t wait to explore, but life in Spring Valley isn’t what he expected. The Wilders have to stay with relatives in a small, cramped house where Almanzo’s aunt Martha is cold and unfriendly. Almanzo longs for the freedom he had back home, and he especially misses his horse, Starlight. Even as he makes new friends at school and helps his father pick a plot of land for the family to settle on, Almanzo can’t help but wonder: Is Minnesota the right place for the Wilders? Or do they belong in New York?

    First introduced in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Little House book Farmer Boy, Almanzo Wilder’s adventures continue in Farmer Boy Goes West."

    Kirkus Reviews was not very kind to this book, but maybe if we had more "safe, comfortable, respectful," and wholesome literature out there for young people, the world would be a kinder place.

    I wanted to catch Pa's Fiddle: The Music of America on PBS when it aired, but I didn't see it. I was very disappointed, as I knew Dean Butler played an important role in its production. Now that it is available for sale, I didn't waste any time getting my hands on it.

    Here is the description I found online:

    Live concert performances of the music of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    Little House on the Prairie, the autobiographical book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, holds in its pages a comprehensive review of 19th-century American folk music via the very real character of Charles Pa Ingalls (1836-1902), a highly acclaimed fiddler of the time and Laura's own non-fictional father. For the first time, in January 2012, a concert based on this music was performed before a live audience at the Loveless Barn just outside of Nashville, TN for broadcast by the PBS television network. The DVD release contains 14 performances with bonus features including a performance from Natalie Grant, notes on Pa's Fiddle Music from Dale Cockrell, and the video short Little House on the Prairie: Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    An effort co-produced by Dean Butler Almanzo on the Little House on the Prairie TV show) and esteemed musicologist Dale Cockrell (President of Pa's Fiddle Recordings), PA'S FIDDLE: THE MUSIC OF AMERICA features performances from some of the finest of today's acoustic musicians, enlisting the talents of award-winning musician and musical director Randy Scruggs and all-star Pa's Fiddle Band with Matt Combs (fiddle), Dennis Crouch (upright bass), Chad Cromwell drums), Hoot Hester (mandolin) and Shad Cobb (banjo), along with featured artists Randy Travis, Rodney Atkins, Ronnie Milsap, Ashton Shepherd, The Roys, Natalie Grant and Committed (NBC Sing Off Champions). Says Dean Butler of the production, 'Dale Cockrell loves traditional American music and I love the stories of American pioneer life written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Having this opportunity to share the music Laura recalled in her unforgettable novels is nothing less than a dream come true.'

    Now available at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder DVD. To learn more about it, you can visit I ordered my copy yesterday. I can't wait to watch it! 

    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    Beyond Little House Announces Dean Butler’s Laura Documentary in General Release

    Beyond Little House made an important announcement that fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder will want to hear about. Dean Butler and Legacy Documentaries, in association with Friendly Family Productions, have worked tirelessly to bring you Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder, a DVD that will soon be available at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, MN.

    Saturday, August 4, 2012

    Patrick Labyorteaux Series Premiers on Nick at Nite in October!

    Patrick Labyorteaux (LHOP's Andrew Garvey) left the prairie behind many years ago. Since then, Labyorteaux has remained active in the industry, in the role of Bud Roberts on JAG, and most recently on Dexter, iCarly, and the films In My Sleep and 2012: Ice Age.

    He and his wife, Tina Albanese, are creators/executive producers of an upcoming new series that premiers on October 6th on Nick at Nite. See Dad Run, stars actor, producer, writer and director Scott Baio. "A multi-camera scripted half-hour, the series follows David Hobbs (Baio) an actor who, after ten years of starring as America's favorite TV dad, becomes a stay-at-home father to honor the deal he made with his soap star wife (Alanna Ubach, Meet the Fockers) so that she may return to the limelight. Mark Curry (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper) also joins the series as David's friend, Marcus. The series is currently in production on the former Happy Days stage in Los Angeles."

    You can read the entire press release at

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler Remember The Last Farewell

    I found this on YouTube when I was watching a tour of Melissa Gilbert's home. I'm guessing this is something special that Dean produced to go with the Little House on the Prairie Set that included all nine seasons and the movies.

    It was nice to see Dean and Melissa together again. I also loved Richard (Mr. Oleson) Bull's narration.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Answers to a Fan's Nagging Questions about Little House

    Over at our Little House on the Prairie forum, a fan posted a link to an article from 2008 titled, "My Nagging Questions About Little House on the Prairie." I have to admit I was feeling a bit zany last night when I answered these questions, but I thought it would be neat to add them here. Hope you'll comment on any that catch your eye.

    Why did the Ingalls have the crappiest house in Walnut Grove? How did the Garveys (and everyone else in the town) end up with a much larger home? Didn’t Jonathan work at the same exact mill as Charles? (Granted, the Garveys only had one mouth to feed…but you get my point.)

    Because, if the Ingalls family had a bigger house, it would be called “Little House That is Now a Big House on the Prairie.” LOL! Actually, I think a lot of it does have to do with the fact that they had more kids. People with larger houses were business people or had fewer or no kids: the Widow Thurman, the Olesons, snippy Christie who was a town girl, Mrs. Craig, and Lars Hanson. Often the houses shown for other townsfolk were smaller than the Ingalls farm. My question was how did Almanzo (a farmer) and Eliza Jane (a teacher) afford that nice house?

    Why wasn’t older Carrie ever given a storyline? (I think the last time she was featured was when she fell down the hole.) If the attention wasn’t on either Laura or Albert, it was on the new adoptees James and Cassandra. As it was, Carrie barely ever spoke.

    Agreed. Give that girl a storyline or acting lessons—whichever was necessary.

    Why were the older males never meant to have love? Mr. Edwards lost two families and then gave up a blind girl because he felt he was too old. And how about Dr. Baker? He also gave up Anne Archer because of age.

    No chizz. Even the Reverend Alden ended up married.

    Speaking of love, why didn’t Hester Sue and Joe Kagan ever get together?

    They did. After Hester Sue almost married that horrible funeral director, she leaves the church on the arm of Joe Kagan. He asks her if that means they’re engaged, and she says something like, “I’ll have to see how you work out.” Then in "Second Chance" (Season 8), Hester Sue’s ex-husband comes back and she admits to Caroline that she didn’t marry Joe because she couldn’t rid herself of her feelings for Sam.

    Was Charles the only person in town who could solve things with his fists?

    I think Jonathan Garvey did a good job of that too.

    When the families temporarily left Walnut Grove to make money in other towns (like Winoka), what did Dr. Baker do?

    He stayed to take care of Lars, who had a stroke, and a few others. But why did Mrs. Foster stay? Or anyone else who hung around when there was no church and no store. It couldn’t have been easy to get supplies.

    Why didn’t Laura and Almanzo volunteer to take more orphans in? (I’m not counting Shannen Doherty since she was technically a relative.) Laura knew what it was like to grow up in a large family and she had a huge house. She could have offered to take James and Cassandra in when they were looking for parents. Heck - she could have even offered to trade homes with her cramped parents.

    Because, until Charles and Caroline left, they were the role models of the community. They were the parents and they fixed the problems. Also, Charles felt responsible for the Cooper children.

    Exactly how much older was Almanzo to Laura?

    They don’t really say. In " Back to School," Charles asks Caroline how old he is. He assumes he’s in his 20s, but I don’t think we ever know. In real life, there was a ten year difference between Laura and Almanzo, and there is an eight year age difference between Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler.

    When the Ingalls were struggling, how did Charles always find money for tobacco?

    Maybe he has a patch hidden in the wheat. LOL! Even sugar ran out at times, but never tobacco.

    When Mary’s baby died in the fire, how did Dr. Baker know the fire started in the basement? Was he also the town fire marshal?

    Doesn’t Hester Sue open the door to the basement and sees the fire? I would think the pipe would have been destroyed by the intense heat.

    Whatever happened to the black doctor Hiram brought on?

    He’s working on the same alternate prairie as Dr. Marvin, who cures Jenny. He is mentioned in the Season 8 episode "A Farway Cry," so we can only assume he's around, but we never see him again.

    If there were approximately 100 residents in Walnut Grove, why did only 20 of them show up to church every week? I think more people ate at Nellie’s during their franchise stint.

    Some lived pretty far out of town. They probably didn’t come all the time. But I'm sure no one ate at a restaurant that often.

    Why were Caroline and Hester Sue responsible for running every shift at the restaurant? Couldn’t Mrs. Oleson find someone for the breakfast rush?

    Now, where’s the fun in that?

    Why did Hester Sue feel it was necessary to sing after every event?

    Considering Ketty Lester was a singer, that doesn’t surprise me.

    When did Charles and Caroline find the time to produce more children? Not only did they lack bedroom doors - Carrie slept in the same room!

    They are very inventive or quiet.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    BackStory with the American History Guys Podcast

    Tom Ireland House, Webberville, Travis County, TX 1937 (via Library of Congress)

    Sometimes I really appreciate technology. I received an email from Frank Cirillo, a researcher at BackStory with the American History Guys. This is a history public radio program and podcast run out of the University of Virginia.  The program features three renowned history professor hosts and a number of interviews and calls from a range of people.

    Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder might be interested in this recent podcast entitled, "Home Bittersweet Home," which discusses the home ownership as an integral part of the American Dream. Guests for this episode include:

  • Loren Moulds — Historian, University of Virginia
  • Richard White – Professor of History, Stanford University
  • David Edelstein — Film critic, New York Magazine

  • Covering a wide range of topics, BackStory with the American History Guys sounds like a fabulous place for history lovers to investigate and learn more. Projects in the works include an in-depth look at the War of 1812 and the social, economic, and health consequences of drinking in America.

    What Would You Like to See Here?

    It's not that I don't have a lot of ideas. It's that I don't have a lot of time. Hopefully that will change, but in the meantime, I would love to hear what you would like to see. That way, in the time I have I can bring you more of what you want.

    So, let me hear ya!

    Saturday, April 14, 2012

    New Little House on the Prairie Podcast

    Jo, a long-time fan of the the classic family TV show, Little House on the Prairie, has started a new Little House on the Prairie Podcast. She will be focusing on the show exclusively. Fans can download the podcasts for free from iTunes. You can also find a website for the show at

    Friday, March 30, 2012

    Book Review: Laura Ingalls Wilder (DK Biography) by Tanya Lee Stone

    Next month, my daughter has to read a biography for school and write a report. She was unsure whose life she wanted to learn more about, so I stopped by the library and picked up three books for her to consider. Though she didn't choose Laura Ingalls Wilder, I sat down to read the book last night while I soaked in the tub.

    The DK Biogaphy of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Tanya Lee Stone is very similar to most books written about Wilder's life. The author provides a short introduction that discusses who Wilder was. Then Chapter One opens in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, where Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born in February 1867. The book provides a very brief discussion about the Ingalls and Quiner clans before Charles and Caroline married, but the majority of the book is about Laura's life (no surprise there).

    Stone discusses Pa's wanderlust and the Ingalls family's many journeys by covered wagon, until they finally settled in Dakota Territory in an area that would become known as De Smet, SD.

    Chapter Seven introduces Almanzo Wilder, Laura's future husband. The author moves through Laura's years married to Almanzo, discussing the hard times that fell upon them and their decision to leave South Dakota and travel to Missouri.

    Stone talks about Rose Wilder and her relationship with her mother more than in some other biographies I have read, which is nice. The rest of the book discusses Laura's writing while helping Almanzo on Rocky Ridge Farm, the beautiful house they built together, her classic Little House books, and the award that now bears Laura's name. The book even touches upon Michael Landon's classic TV show, Little House on the Prairie.

    Stone provides a detailed account of Wilder's life. Adult fans won't learn anything new, but it was interesting to see the number of archival photographs. There are familiar ones of the Ingalls and Wilder families, but also pictures of the towns when they lived there and of other people, places and things from the pioneering era. I also like how there were fact boxes included on some of the pages with additional information about The Homestead Act of 1862, the railroad, pioneer teachers and more.

    One tiny nitpick from page 115 states The Happy Golden Years, which was published in 1943, was about the early years of Laura and Almanzo's marriage. This book is about their courtship and ends with Laura inspecting her new home after their quick wedding. The First Four Years is about Bessie and Manly's marriage. The author mentions this book on page 119 and correctly states it is about the early years of their marriage. A young reader might be confused by this, especially if they haven't read the Little House books yet.

    I was surprised I didn't have this book as part of my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection. I'll have to correct that error soon.

    Reading level: Ages 8 and up
    Paperback: 128 pages
    Publisher: DK Publishing (March 2, 2009)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0756645085
    ISBN-13: 978-0756645083
    SRP: $5.99

    I borrowed this book from the local library. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    Melissa Gilbert Cast for Season 14 of Dancing With the Stars

    Today, ABC announced the cast for Season 14 of Dancing With the Stars. Headliners include, Little House on the Prairie star, Melissa Gilbert.

    While I don't watch this show at all, I can't say I'm surprised. Gilbert got into shape dancing for Little House on the Prairie, the Musical. She should do well on DWTS. I was also excited to see Disney Channel star, Roshon Fegan in the line up. He's my favorite character from Shake It Up. I might have to record a few of these episodes to catch Gilbert and Fegan in action.

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    New Article on Pa's Fiddle

    Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder, Little House on the Prairie, NBC) shared this link on Facebook to an article that appeared yesterday about the Pa's Fiddle: America's Music PBS Special. Randy Travis and Ronnie Milsap are part of an all-star band put together by acclaimed musician/producer Randy Scruggs. They worked with Dean and Dr. Dale Cockrell, director of MTSU's Center for Popular Music to create this special tribute.

    You can read the article at

    The picture above comes from: This is the cover of a CD that includes some of the songs Pa played that were featured in Laura Ingalls Wilder's now classic Little House books. Though the site lists the CD as in Pre-release, it looks like it was released in 2011. I found a seller on Amazon that had one.

    I'm excited about this PBS special. It is due to air in June during the network's pledge drive. According to the article, a new CD of this music will also be available on June 5th.

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Happy Birthday Almanzo!

    I don't know how any of you ladies feel, but I think this is a handsome photo of young Almanzo James Wilder. This "Farmer Boy" from New York moved with his family to Spring Valley, Minnesota in 1875 due to crop failures. Almanzo would join his older siblings, Royal and Eliza Jane, on a trip into Dakota Territory, where the brothers and their sister took up claims near what would become De Smet, SD.

    He would meet his future wife, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls, in De Smet. They would survive the Hard Winter, during which Almanzo and Cap Garland saved the town from starvation by going off to find seed wheat to feed the town until the trains could get through in the spring.

    Though Laura actually had her eye on Cap Garland as a potential suitor, Almanzo's Morgan horses captured her attention. Eventually Almanzo and Laura began courting. He would drive her back and forth to her first teaching job.

    They were wed on August 25, 1885. Life wasn't always easy for the Wilders. They suffered tremendous loss. They would eventually leave De Smet, traveling to Mansfield, Missouri, where they would spend most of their adult years.

    Laura captured Almanzo's love of farming in Farmer Boy. She portrayed his heroic nature in The Long Winter. In Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years, readers watched their romance blossom, and in The First Four Years, readers witnessed the harsh realities of the times in which the Wilders lived.

    On Almanzo's birthday, we pay tribute to America's favorite "Farmer Boy." We are so glad we got a chance to know him through Laura's eyes. We are also glad to have talented actors who have brought Almanzo to life for us in their own unique ways.

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Happy Birthday, Laura!

    The years pass so quickly. Nearly two years after the end of the Civil War, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born in the "Big Woods" of Wisconsin. Growing up, she was jealous of her older sister, Mary, like younger sisters often are. An independent-minded--some would say feisty--girl, she was very much like her beloved Pa. After years of traveling by covered wagon, her father finally settled the family--now including younger sisters Carrie and Grace--in De Smet, SD. Laura enjoyed life in town and made many friends. While living in De Smet, she met her future husband, Almanzo Wilder.

    The now classic Little House books chronicle Laura's life growing up on America's prairies. They share her triumphs and tragedies, her gains and her losses; a life lived through years of great progress across the country. On her birthday, we honor the life of our favorite pioneer girl and the books, movies, and television shows that continue to celebrate her legacy.

    Dean Butler and MTSU Work with Country Music Greats on Pa's Fiddle Project

    Just because I haven't mentioned my favorite Little House on the Prairie alum, Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder, NBC) lately, doesn't mean he hasn't been busy.

    He recently worked with some of country music's biggest stars, staff and students at Middle Tennessee State University, and many others on the Pa's Fiddle Project for PBS. It's goal--to bring the old-time fiddle music enjoyed by Charles "Pa" Ingalls alive.

    Here's a video that talks about the project. Please note that Pa's middle name is Phillip, not Paul, as the commentator states. I can't wait for more news on when this will air.

    You can find out more about this project on MTSU's website.

    Recent Award Winners in Children's Books

    Coretta Scott King Author Award

    The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. But it is also the story of injustice; of a country divided by law, education, and wealth; of a people whose struggles and achievements helped define their country. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination and triumphs. (Ages 9 and up)

    Kadir Nelson is an acclaimed illustrator whose powerful artwork is captured in numerous award-winning picture books, including the Caldecott Honor Book Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine; the Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award winner Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People To Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford; and his own We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball and Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. He lives with his family in San Diego, California.

    Visit Kadir online at

    Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

    A family silently crawls along the ground. They run barefoot through unlit woods, sleep beneath bushes, take shelter in a kind stranger's home. Where are they heading? They are heading for Freedom by way of the Underground Railroad. (Ages 4 and up)

    Shane Evans has illustrated numerous books for children, including the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner Shanna's Ballerina Show. He attributes much of his influence to his travels to Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and much of the United States. He is a firm believer in education and creative development for all people.

    Visit Shane online at

    Newbery Award

    Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his Utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air. (Ages 10 and up)

    Jack Gantos has written novels for adults, young adults, and middle grade readers, as well as over twenty books for primary readers, including twelve titles chronicling the misadventures of Rotten Ralph. He lives in Santa Fe, NM.

    Visit Jack online at

    Caldecott Medal

    Any child who has ever had a beloved toy break will relate to Daisy's anguish when her favorite ball is destroyed by a bigger dog. In the tradition of his nearly wordless picture book Yo! Yes?, Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka explores in pictures the joy and sadness that having a special toy can bring. Raschka's signature swirling, impressionistic illustrations and his affectionate story will particularly appeal to young dog lovers and teachers and parents who have children dealing with the loss of something special. (ages 3 and up)

    Chris Raschka has written and/or illustrated over 30 books for children, including The Purple Balloon, called "deceptively simple and beautifully direct" by Kirkus Reviews. His other books include Good Sports, an ALA Notable Book; the 2006 Caldecott Medal winning title, The Hello, Goodbye Window; the Caldecott Honor Books Yo! Yes?; and Mysterious Thelonius.

    Theodor Suess Geisel Award

    James is a very picky eater. His dad has to get creative—very creative—in order to get James to eat foods he thinks he doesn’t like. He presents James with a series of outlandish scenarios packed with fanciful and gross kid-friendly details—like pre-chewed gum as an alternative to broccoli and lumpy oatmeal that grows so big it eats the dog—in an effort to get James to eat. But it is eventually James himself who discovers that some foods are not so bad, after all, if you’re willing to give them a try. (Ages 6 and up)

    Josh Schneider’s first book for Clarion, You’ll Be Sorry, was named a “Book That Provides Best Ammunition to Parents Weary of Warning Their Kids About Socking Their Siblings” by Publishers Weekly magazine. Josh lives in Chicago. He is very brave and can eat lots of scary foods (although he doesn’t).

    Tuesday, January 31, 2012

    Survey Results

    It's an upset! For that past two years in a row, A Christmas They Never Forgot took top honors as the Little House on the Prairie episode our readers most wanted to watch.  This year, Christmas at Plum Creek won by a landslide, taking 47% of the vote, while A Christmas They Never Forgot and Blizzard tied for second place. The Christmas scene from The Pilot and the post--series movie, Bless All the Dear Children tied for third. That last one I try to forget exists. It's too sappy even by LHOP standards.

    Thanks to all who participated. Hope you had a nice holiday.