Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder by Nancy Tystad Koupal #Review @sdhspress

Pioneer Girl Perspectives cover

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

Published May 1st, 2016 by South Dakota State Historical Society

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Amazon| Barnes & Noble

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.


Quick Review: The United States of Absurdity by Dave Anthony & Gareth Reynolds

The United States of Absurdity cover

If you enjoy reading about odd and ridiculous events in history, then this is the book for you. Let’s face it: the history we learn in school isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. All those events that happened throughout the centuries—while important to know about—are decidedly lacking in the humor department. This book has many funny anecdotes, but it’s not exactly the sort of history that would find its way into a school textbook.

What you will find are stories about such notable moments as:

  • The 14-year-old boy who made nitroglycerin in an improvised “lab”, who eventually built a breeder reactor in his parent’s backyard.
  • Henry Heimlich’s campaign to make the Heimlich maneuver the preferred way to save someone from choking to death, followed by his attempts to prove malaria could cure cancer… and Lyme disease… and AIDS.
  • Harry Smolinski’s attempt to create a flying car… using a Ford Pinto.
  • A cheese wheel that was gifted to Andrew Jackson, which was four feet in diameter, two feet thick, and weighed a whipping 1400 pounds.
  • The Straw Hat Riots of 1922, which began because some men were absolute heathens and wore their straw hats past the acceptable dates of May 15th to September 15th.

Some of the stories were more interesting than others (as would be the case with any collection such as this), and I was aware of a few—such as the story of the “Radium Girls”. I was in need of a light read, and this fit the bill nicely.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Ten Speed Press via Netgalley.


Authors: Dave Anthony & Gareth Reynolds

Title: The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History

Genre: History, Humor, Nonfiction

Published: Published May 9th, 2017 by Ten Speed Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Book

Discover illustrated profiles of the weird, outrageous (and true!) tales from American history that don’t appear in school textbooks.

From the creators of the comedy/history podcast “The Dollop,” “The United States of Absurdity” presents short, informative, and hilarious stories of the most outlandish (but true) people, events, and more from United States history. Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds cover the weird stories you didn’t learn in history class, such as 10-Cent Beer Night, the Jackson Cheese, and the Kentucky Meat Shower, each accompanied by a full-page illustration that brings these historical “milestones” to life in full-color. Adding to the giftable history/comedy package, each story is accompanied by tongue-in-cheek trivia and timelines that help place the stories in context with the more well-known historical events that occurred around them.

Review: History of the Donner Party by C. F. McGlashan


McGlashan’s History of the Donner Party recalls the fateful expedition of the Donner Party, which got stuck while moving west during winter and had to resort to cannibalism to survive. It was perhaps the most notorious of all pioneering trips during the 19th century.

I only knew the most basic facts about this tragedy before reading this book. I had no idea that nearly half of the people died, or that there were so many infants and young children. Thankfully, the author didn’t focus heavily on the disturbing parts, but told the entire story in a matter of fact, yet compassionate, way.

The travelers were hit with misfortune and tragedy from the start, and by the time they reached the mountains, they had already been through a lot. The early arrival of winter storms sealed their doom. Unable to go forward or back, they were forced to make camp with very little in the way of supplies, and barely adequate shelter. It was heart-wrenching to read about their slow starvation, particularly regarding the children. Knowing what they went through, it’s a miracle any of them survived at all.

I’ll never read it again, but I’m glad to know the true stories of this group of emigrants; and not just the disturbing act that a few of those starving souls were driven to out of utter desperation. Their story is about much more than that.

Author: C. F. McGlashan

Title: History of the Donner Party, a Tragedy of the Sierra

Published: 1907

Rating: ★★★


This review was originally published on Goodreads on March 16, 2015.