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.