Many of my earliest reading memories are about the Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I first fell in love with her books when I was eight years old. Little House in the Big Woods was one of the first books I ever checked out of the school library, in fact. I remember how excited I was when I realized there were more books telling the story of Ma, Pa, Mary, and Laura. (And, of course, Carrie and Grace, a bit later.) I was as enchanted with Pa’s stories as Laura was, and I delighted in reading about Ma making cheese, or cooking supper over a campfire. I remember how I used to take in every detail of Garth Williams’ beautiful illustrations, as in love with the pictures as I was the words themselves.
These are the books of my childhood, the source of countless hours of entertainment for a little girl who was always happiest with her nose stuck in a book. Throughout my life, I’ve always wanted to know more about the real Laura and what her life was like. When I noticed there was a Goodreads Giveaway for Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder, so I entered immediately. I didn’t expect to win, so imagine my joy when I was notified as one of the winners!
The book is a collection of essays written by multiple writers. The research that went into these essays is impressive, indeed, and sheds light on who Laura really was, beyond the idealized version I read about in the Little House books. Despite claims made by both herself and daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, that the events in the Little House books are “completely true” Pioneer Girl Perspectives makes it clear that they are not “completely” true at all. Certain things are altered, or left out of the books altogether—such as the omission of the family who lived with the Ingalls’ during the time of The Long Winter. Despite having lived in the Ingalls’ home for the duration of winter, Laura disliked them enough to erase them from the narrative completely when she wrote about it.
We also learn how “yellow journalism” influenced the writing of Rose Wilder Lane (and why she was sued by Charlie Chaplin over the biography she wrote about him). I have to admit the parts solely focusing on Rose were a bit of a chore to get through at times, but it was interesting to learn a bit about her.
There is a bit of repetition within the essays—certain facts being mentioned in multiple essays—but that’s to be expected in a collaborative work such as this. I learned about many things I was previously unaware of (such as: Garth Williams was not the first Little House illustrator), and I enjoyed seeing the photographs of people, places, and items that are scattered throughout the book.
This is a wonderful addition to Laura Ingalls Wilder collections, particularly if you’re interested in learning more about Laura, beyond the books. Any Wilder fan would be happy to have this one in their personal library, I’m sure!
I won a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways.
Author: Nancy Tystad Koupal (Editor)
Title: Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Nonfiction, Essay Collection
Publication Date: May 1, 2016 by South Dakota State Historical Society
Rating: 4 stars
About the Book
Published over eighty years after its inception, “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography” edited by Pamela Smith Hill gave readers new insight into the truth behind Wilder’s fiction. “Pioneer Girl Perspectives” further demonstrates the importance of Wilder as an influential American author whose stories of growing up on the frontier remain relevant today.