Monday, February 15, 2016

Pioneer Girl



Reading Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill was an absolute delight and a milestone reading event for me.  Like so many, I grew up reading and rereading The Little House books.  By the time I reached 5th grade at Ivywild School in Colorado Springs and my teacher starting reading the books to the class everyday after lunch, I had already read through the series a couple of times.  As an adult, I've read several biographies of Wilder, including a few books about the evolution of Wilder as an author and the role her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, played in bringing the books to the world.

However, reading the source material, Wilder's non-fictional account of her childhood in the American Midwest during the 1870s and 1880s was fascinating and satisfying.  The annotation was superb, with Hill providing meticulous notes on virtually every person and place Wilder mentions in the book.  She also provided extensive notes on how the non-fictional accounts of various events were used by both Wilder and Lane in the later fiction that grew out of Pioneer Girl.

Not only was my reading of Pioneer Girl intensely nostalgic, but I also came away from it with a renewed respect for Wilder as an author.  Her diligence, her willingness to listen to her writing coach (i.e., her daughter), her ability to learn from her mistakes, and her insistence on being true to her vision of her life and family are admirable. I'm not sure that I would have gotten that sense of the author without the annotation.  She also included notes on what Wilder and Lane decided not to include and speculation as to why.  Her notes on the chronology of Wilder's reminiscences were also helpful, usually giving Wilder the benefit of the doubt with regards to a 60+ person remembering accurately dates of events from her childhood.

I've decided to reread the Dakota Territory books, starting with On the Shores of Silver Lake, and including The Hard Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years.  I'm also hoping to take a road trip in May to De Smet, SD, the little town on the prairie where these books take place.  I'm also planning on reading some of Rose Wilder Lane's novels, probably starting with Young Pioneers.

I wish we could get a good documentary of Wilder's life--I'm not interested in any adaptations of the books, my own imagination is too firm in how I want to visualize them, but a documentary would be very welcome!


11 comments:

  1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this! I And I am completely jealous of your upcoming trip. A friend and I have been talking about a "Laura" trip for years, but we never get beyond talking. Do you have a copy of The Little House Guidebook :)

    I'll be curious to see what you think of Rose's books.

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    1. I don't have the Little House Guidebook, which I should probably get. I'm most concerned that going in May means some of the sites might not be opened for the season yet, but I really more want to go to see with my own eyes what Laura saw with hers.

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  2. I think I will be reading Pioneer Girl later this year (for The Little House Read-Along). My family and I visited Independence, KS (Little House log cabin) and Rocky Ridge in Missouri. It was awesome! But most of all, I would love to visit De Smet. That would be the ultimate Little House visit. Take lots of pictures!

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    1. The cabin in Indian Territory (using Laura's nomenclature) and Rocky Ridge are definitely must visits but just not for the long weekend in May, which is all the time I can afford for this pilgrimage right now. For me, De Smet is the ultimate LH destination since 4 of the 8 books take place there and they were always my favorite of the books anyway.

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  3. I don't know that I've ever seen a good documentary about Wilder and her books. Glad this one worked for you!

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  4. We visited De Smet with our daughter when she was I and it was a delight! Can't wait for your report of your visit. So glad this was a banner book for you!

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    1. How cool that you've visited De Smet!

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  5. Wow terrific. I was just talking about this book in my last post and how I wanted to read it. It sounds like it gives some new information about her life. thx!

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  6. I have always dreamed for going to De Smet as well as that and Mansfield, Missouri are where most of the real Laura artifacts are. With so many books set in De Smet, it's really what Little House is all about. We are hopefully going to do that in the future, but are going to Walnut Grove and Pepin for the first time this summer on the way to a family baptism. I can't wait!

    Pioneer Girl was wonderful and I agree that it really made me respect how Laura was able to take her raw material and craft it into the wonderful books we have today. I also loved all of the details that answered many of my burning questions such as were there really black panthers in Wisconsin?

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    1. Enjoy your trip to Walnut Grove and Pepin! How fun. Yes, the details about the facts of the LH books was fascinating.

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