The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion

For several years, I hosted a Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge during the month of February. I often referred to Annette Whipple’s site, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion. Now Annette has written a book: The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide.

A chapter is devoted to each book in the Little House series. Annette summarizes the plot, then, as the title suggests, she goes chapter by chapter sharing interesting background information, discussing life in Laura’s time, explaining concepts or situations that might be confusing, etc. Sidebars share even more information.

Laura had not written the Little House books as strict autobiographies. So some information is made up to smooth out the story. For instance, her nemesis, Nellie Olsen, was actually based on three different girls Laura knew. Annette’s “Fact or Fiction?” inserts discuss some of those made-up parts.

Next, each chapter shares instructions and illustrations for several Little-House-related activities. For instance, the first chapter, based on Little House in the Big Woods, tells how to make homemade butter, paper dolls, vinegar pie, snow pictures, pancake people, snow maple candy, and more–all activities that Laura’s family did in the books.

Each chapter ends with a “House Talk” section, several questions for thought and discussion. A few from the first chapter: what would you like and dislike about living in the Big Woods, what kind of work did Laura and Mary do to help their parents, how do you help your family, how did Charlie lie, why didn’t Pa shoot the deer at the end of the book?

Scattered throughout the book are photos of the Ingalls family, their various homes, news photos from the times (like a snowed-in train in The Long Winter chapter).

A final chapter tells “What Happened Next”—what ultimately happened with each of the Ingalls family members.

Annette didn’t shy away from or gloss over the difficulties in Laura’s book, like how African-Americans were depicted or the treatment and feelings towards the Indians.She points out what was wrong and how attitudes have changed today.

[Laura] didn’t tell readers how or what to believe. Instead, she let readers like you decide what to think.

We change and grow as a country and a people. When we do, we realize the ways people lived and thought in the past weren’t always right. We can learn from the past and make changes in ourselves (p. 42).

An extensive glossary defines unfamiliar terms, and a final section lists resources to explore.

This book is a great companion for exploring the Little House books personally, as a family, or as a class or home school. Highly recommended.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent, Senior Salon)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge
With the end of February, we come to the end of the Laura Ingalls Wilder reading Challenge for this year. If you’ve read anything by, about, or related to Laura this month, please share it with us in the comments. You can share a link back to your book reviews, or if you’ve written a wrap-up post, you can link back to that (the latter might be preferable if you’ve written more than one review — the WordPress spam filter tends to send comments with more than one link to the spam folder. But I’ll try to keep a watch out for them.) We’d also love to hear if you’ve done any “Little House” related activities.
And, if you’ve participated this month, you’re eligible for the drawing for a copy of The Little House Cookbook, compiled by Barbara M. Walker and illustrated by Garth Williams (the same illustrator for my set of Little House books). I’ll choose a name through a week from today to give everyone time to get their last books and posts finished. You’re eligible even if you don’t have a blog: just share with us in the comments what you read and a few of your thoughts about it. If you already have this book, I can substitute a similarly-priced Laura book of your choice. I’ve spent some time looking through it: it’s more than just recipes: it shares a lot of interesting information as well as excerpts about food and cooking from the books.
For myself, I had planned to make some items from it and have something of a birthday party for Laura on her birthday, the 7th, but that was when my mother-in-law was ill, and between that, moving her to a new place, and my husband’s surgery, I didn’t do any “Laura” activities, but I did manage to get a few books read. These link back to my reviews:
West From Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a compilation of letters Laura wrote to Almanzo while visiting their daughter, Rose, and Rose’s husband, and the World’s Fair.
Let the Hurricane Roar by Rose Wilder Lane. Laura’s daughter wrote a fictionalized account of some of her grandparent’s experiences.
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, covers the same events as Let the Hurricane Roar plus a few more: a grasshopper plague, blizzards, attending school for the first time, meeting Nellie Oleson.
I had originally planned to read Farmer Boy, about Almanzo’s childhood, but when I discovered the Plum Creek book covered some of the same events as Rose’s book, I wanted to go ahead and read it while the other was fresh in my mind. Farmer Boy was the second book written of the Little House books, but it can really be read at any point. I do want to read it before Almanzo shows up in Laura’s story, though!
Thank you all for participating! That’s what makes this challenge so fun. I’ve already come across a book or two I hadn’t known of before that I want to read next time through some of your reviews. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on what you’ve read!

What did you read as a kid?


Carrie had someone ask this question in her comments, and she answered yesterday. My response grew into several paragraphs, so I figured it would be better to form them into my own blog post rather than posting a full-fledged post in her comments.

Since I am in my mid-fifties, my childhood was a long time ago. I don’t remember whether my mom read to me, though I assume she did. I LOVED reading in school. The first book I remember reading from is A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I must have read several Little Golden Books, because they were familiar to me when I started reading them to my kids. I remember checking out a biography of Martin Luther from the school library in maybe the second grade. My dad did not read much at that time (though he did after he retired), and he thought I was being lazy if I was sitting around reading much. I remember being admonished about that a number of times, so I must have been reading a lot, but it doesn’t seem to have dimmed my enthusiasm. Since I was the oldest of six kids, whatever children’s books we had did not survive the long run through everyone’s use.

I never heard of Anne of Green Gables until I was a young adult (when the Megan Follows films came out) or Narnia until less than 15 years ago. When someone in our church talked about acting in a local production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I was suspect. 🙂 I think it was probably then that I checked the series out and loved it. I think it’s been in that time frame that I discovered The Hobbit and LOTR, too.

Somehow I even missed Nancy Drew and The Babysitters Club! I do remember reading Little Women  and its sequels many times, and I must have read some of the Little House books, because they were familiar to me later. Then in high school I discovered and loved Dickens with David Copperfield. Somewhere along the way I read Great Expectations and Oliver Twist and didn’t like those quite so well, and attempted A Tale of Two Cities several times over the years before finally getting through it and then instantly rereading it and deeming it my favorite novel. I remember some book from the Scholastic book paper about a girl getting pregnant (and my dad was very angry I was reading that) and one called The Endless Steppe about a girl in Russia

I remember studying a different Shakespeare play each year in high school but not getting much out of it. My sophomore English class was memorable because we made a film, but I don’t remember what we read. That was the early 70s, just coming off the hippie era, and my teacher that year “fit” into that era well.

It was in college that I first discovered missionary biographies, and that was nurtured by the church I attended for the first 14 yeas we were married which had in the monthly ladies’ meetings a librarian who talked briefly each meeting about a book and had them there to check out.

Early married years were when I first discovered Christian fiction with Janette Oke. In high school I had read Not My Will by Francena Arnold, which was kind of a precursor of modern Christian fiction, and it spoke to my heart.

I know we explored good literature in three of my college literature classics, but all I can remember is discovering and loving Anne Bradstreet and then Jane Austen’s Emma. A lady professor who attended my church taught a class on Shakespeare that I really wanted to take, but just couldn’t work it in.

Since I’ve started a blog I’ve purposed to read through some of the classics. I’ve read all of Austen’s books, Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, and many others. I’m enjoying discovering them as an adult, though I am sorry I missed being exposed to them at a younger age. I also enjoy rereading some of the ones I had read earlier, like Little Women and the Little House books and Dickens. I’ve had fun exploring children’s classics that I missed along the way, like all of the Anne books, Narnia, Caddie Woodlawn, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (a favorite, though I need to reread it again). And I continue on with biographies, “real-life” stories, Christian fiction and non-fiction, and an occasional secular fiction or non-fiction.

Some favorites I read to my own kids when they were small were the Francis books, Curious George, Clifford, the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minark, the Jesse Bear series by Nancy White Carlstrom, Mike Mulligan, The Little Engine That Could, Robert McCloskey books (Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal), Dr. Seuss, P. D. Eastman, Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie by Peter Roop one of my all-time favorites, about a girl who has to keep the lighthouse lamps burning when her father is delayed from getting back home due to a storm), The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer, the Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr books by Maj Lindman, and of course the Little Golden Books. One of their favorites was Gus the Bus, who goes frolicking off his usual route when his tires get overfilled. We kept that even though it is taped together.

So…what did you read when you were a kid?

(Graphic Courtesy of Grandma’s Graphics.)

Announcing the Second Annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

I had such a good time at last year’s Laura Ingall’s Wilder Reading Challenge that I wanted to do it again!

Laura was born February 7, 1867 and died February 10, 1957, so February seemed a fitting month to honor her. Many of us grew up reading the Little House books, and interest was renewed several years ago when the TV series was popular. I don’t know if there has ever been a time when there wasn’t interest in the Little House series since it first came out. They are enjoyable as children’s books, but they are enjoyable for adults as well. It’s fascinating to explore real pioneer roots and heartening to read of the family relationships and values.

For the reading challenge in February, you can read anything Laura has written or anything written about Laura. You can read alone or with your children or a friend. You can read just one book or several throughout the month — whatever works with your schedule. If you’d like to prepare some food or crafts somehow relating to Laura or her books, that would be really neat too.

On Feb 1 I’ll have a post up where you can sign in and let us know you’ll be participating and what you think you’d like to read that month. That way we can peek in on each other through the month and see how it’s going (that’s half the fun of a reading challenge). On Feb. 28, I’ll have another post where you can share with us links to your wrap-up post. Of course if you want to post through the month as you read, as well, that would be great, and I might share those from time to time. You don’t have to have a blog to participate: you can just leave your impressions in the comments if you like.

So, what do you think? Anyone interested? Make plans now to join us this February — I’m looking forward to seeing you then!

Feel free to grab the button for the challenge to use in your post:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge
<div align="center"><a href="" title="Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge"><img src=""   alt="" width="144" height="184""" alt="Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge" style="border:none;" /></a></div>