Growing up I loved the Little House books! You know, Laura and Mary, Pa and Ma, Jack and …Pa’s fiddle. My son loved them too (yes boys can enjoy Little House books too). He used to listen to the audio versions at bedtime. Once he got stuck listening to the chapter on losing Jack when they crossed the river. He listened to it night after night and I wanted to tell him that everything would be okay if he’d just move on to the next chapter. But this isn’t a post about those books, even though I’ve rescued copies of every title. This is about two books that can enhance your understanding about Laura’s life and all the Little Houses.
The World of Little House
Collins, Carolyn Strom. New York: Scholastic, 1996.
Laura does a good job describing the homes she has lived in, and yet there’s nothing like being able to see the layout for yourself. This book provides overhead views of all the Little Houses, including the dugout home on Plum Creek and Laura’s Rocky Ridge home (she never wrote about it, but it is where she wrote all the books). The introductory chapter about Laura includes the rare photographs of Ma and Pa and other family members, a map showing all the locations Laura lived (one is in Florida!) and family trees for the Ingalls, Wilders and Quiners (Ma’s family).
The next chapters each focus on a specific book and give the floor plan of the Little House, a synopsis of the book, a glimpse at life at that time/location, a Make It Yourself project and a Cook It Yourself recipe. If you were making a unit study of the Little House books, this would be a great source for projects. You can make Almanzo’s favorite Fried Apples ‘n Onions, sew nine-patch quilt squares, or decorate clove apples (Ma’s Christmas gift from her sister).
The book ends with a timeline of events from the Ingalls’ and Wilder’s lives as well as important events in history (For example Rose Wilder was born the same year the Statue of Liberty was unveiled in New York harbor) and the addresses to visit all the Little Houses today.
Of course, you may not be able to take a whirlwind tour across the Midwest right now—which leads me to the second book of the week..
Laura Ingalls Wilder Country
Anderson, William and Leslie A. Kelly. Mexico: Harper Perennial, 1990.
Photographer Leslie Kelly has taken all the pictures you need to feel like you’ve visited each Little House—exteriors, furniture, landscapes, etc. Some locations never made it into a book, like the Master's Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa that the Ingalls managed for a year. In the book you can also find photographs of Ma’s china shepherdess, the china jewel box that Laura got for Christmas at Plum Creek and of course Pa’s fiddle. Mixed in with the modern day color photos are black & white historical pictures and some of the illustrations from the books over the years.
This book is mostly pictures with captions –and be sure to read them because they’re fascinating. For example, under a painting done by Laura it explains that her younger sister Grace asked Ma “What is a tree?” She was living in the treeless plains of Dakota and had never seen one. Laura painted trees and waterfalls to show her sister the answer to the question. Among the family portraits, I found Eliza Jane to be quite lovely, not the spinster she was portrayed to be in the TV series. The book ends with a much briefer timeline focusing on the Ingalls family.
My son loved studying the floor plans and the timelines while I read. When our co-op read through the Little House series, I took these books in for the discussion days.
You can find a list of all my Rescued Books here