Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Wilder Life

I recently got hold of an advance copy of Wendy McClure's The Wilder Life (I sometimes review books for Librarything's Early Reviewers). Subtitled "My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie", it is a wonderfully entertaining look-particularly for someone who grew up in the '70s, when the book series reached an epic popularity-at the works & life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those who read the Little House series as a child should definitely check out this book-you won't want to miss Wendy's detailing of her obsession with "Laura World", which takes her through buying a butter churn on e-Bay to homesteading lessons to pilgrimages to sites from the book (including a stay in a sleeping wagon at the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota).

Here are some of the locations Wendy McClure visited:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

Ingalls Homestead ("Laura's Living Prairie")

Little House on the Prairie (Independence, Kansas)

Little House Wayside

Walnut Grove, Minnesota

I was happy to see that ABC Libraries owns some of the background titles referred to in The Wilder Life:

Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Donald Zochert

The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker

On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894 by Laura Ingalls Wilder (with a setting by Rose Wilder Lane)

West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder to Almanzo Wilder, San Francisco, 1915 edited by Roger Lea MacBride

Searching for Laura Ingalls: A Reader's Journey by Kathryn Lasky & Meribah Knight

The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane by William Holtz

The library system also owns many other titles on the subject of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Reading The Wilder Life made me want to reread the Little House books as an adult-though I'm not sure I'll be churning butter or travelling to De Smet anytime soon-even though the book does deal with some of the questions surrounding how fictionalized the series was, some of books' prejudices (particularly towards Native Americans) & the troubled life of Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.

I also found myself waxing nostalgic for other children's books classics I read in the same period: Anne of Green Gables & Emily of New Moon, both by L.M. Montgomery; Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott; All-of-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor; & the Betsy-Tacy-Tib books by Maud Hart Lovelace, even though Wendy McClure writes

"I don't have a sister, but for a time, while growing up, I had Laura Ingalls... Plenty of [books] offered surrogate sisterhood through their chacters, but none filled the need the way the Little House books did. I enjoyed Little Women, but the March sisters were a self contained bunch, the four of them so chummy together that I could only be an onlooker at their attic plays and Christmas mornings. Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables was a little more solitary, but she seemed awfully needy. I loved that Laura World was full of wide open spaces that expressed the sort of not-alone lonesomeness that I often felt. One frontier seemed to stand for another."

Right on, sister.

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