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.

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