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!