Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pamela Smith Hill, editor
Pierre: Historical Society Press, 2014

When I first heard about this book coming out, I was so excited that I immediately put a hold on it through my local library. Over six months later, it came in. I was truly shocked by the size. Nine and 1/2 inches square with 400 pages and much of that is small print!This is not a leisurely read, but it is definitely an enjoyable one.

So many of us have grown up with the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They are true American treasures and while they were fiction, they were also based largely on fact, painting a picture of the American frontier for millions of boys and girls. "Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography," is the definitive edition of how those books came to be and the true life and times of the young Laura Ingalls.

Ingalls Wilder didn't start out to write a series of children's books. Instead she wrote an adult version of her life story called "Pioneer Girl." Her daughter, author Rose Wilder Lane, who at that time had a career that outshone her mother, attempted to find a publisher for it to no avail. A juvenile version was also developed (included in this book as a facsimile appendix) but that one also could find no buyer. Still the duo did not give up and ultimately the books we know and love came to be written. The Introduction of this autobiography shares this fascinating behind the scenes tale of the creation of the Little House books.

Then, the original manuscript itself is included. Truly, the word "annotated" is an understatement. Every fact is checked and explored in this hefty tome. The notes provide an interesting expanded look at the world of this time and the people who inhabited it. The work that went into this project is mind-blowing. 

This is the definitive guide on the youth of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Any serious scholar studying or writing about her and anyone interested in learning more about her life will want a copy of this book to spend some quality time with. 

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