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All About The Little House on the Prairie Series

Updated on February 18, 2018

Top Reasons To Cherish The Little House Books

The simple things are things I like to be reminded of every day, but the simple things today was a delight to the four Ingalls children back in the 1880's. For example, during Christmas Ma would make sugar cakes for special treats, and in Little House on the Prairie, Laura and Mary each received their own tin cup and of course, some Christmas candy, but there was always something special that Ma surprises them with and sometimes a neighbor or friend. The greatest thing about the "Little House books" is that they are all so cheerful with things that they make from sewing all day; these are the best presents they receive. They learn to do everything, so they give these things to each other and seem really happy. Just the little things like the fact that someone came with the mail with stories from a friend to read for Christmas time.

You have to wonder if Laura actually wrote the way it really was, most likely she decided to leave out parts about her wanting anything special because she knew it sounded much better without it. Everyone should know that these are stories based off of her life yes, but for instance she obviously didn't know Almanzo when Farmer Boy took place, but she still wrote about it. She didn't remember everything clearly from when they lived in “the big woods” because she was really too young to, but the stories she wrote seemed very vivid. This is the great talent I admire so much in her writing.

Although the parts of the show, Little House on the Praire that I have seen have been okay if you watched it at the right age, but I have not seen a movie about it and am not sure that I want to. I am sure that someone could do these books justice, but it would not be a simple thing. I don’t think I could get the right feel that Laura’s words bring by watching it. Other people might have a hard time with the books, but enjoy the t.v series and movie; there really are the people who love it or the people who don’t. Laura wrote these at a different time where even the every day language was completely different, so the way she writes is also a little strange. For instance, I was surprised to see that instead of writing “I lit the candle” she writes “ I lighted the candle”. This doesn't sound like proper grammar to me, but that was probably the way they spoke.

I was brought up with these books, my mother picking out the best parts to read to me when I was sick. They were stuck in my head and I knew when I got older I had to read, and read, and re-read these books which I did, at least two or three of them. When I once again started to read them (it doesn't take long to get through the whole series)I knew I had to make sure the whole world knew about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Little House in the Big Woods

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was the second child of the family to be born in Wisconsin. The most important things to know about Little House In the Big Woods are the stories that Charles, a.k.a Pa, tells of are supposedly true. Also the Christmas and "sugaring off" that the Ingalls spent with their family are the most memorable. Once you get to the end of Laura's life journey this first book seems so incredibly simple and set apart from the newer in the series, maybe because Laura was so young during this time of her life. She can describe the things that she remembered with great clarity, but there seems to be much less that she remembers to write about than in the other books. This book is a good introduction to the family and the series, but would not stand alone. You fall in love with Pa as he sings to the fiddle music he plays, or talks of bears. The description stays with you throughout, especially the "twinkle in his eye".

The Little House on the Prairie

The Little House on the Prairie is the most known of the series. It has had shows and movies based on it, and whenever Laura Ingalls Wilder is mentioned, it is mostly in reference to this. I want to say that there is more, but there is a reason it is so memorable. It is completely different from the reality of life today. This pioneer family leaves to go west - not even knowing really where- in a wagon pulled by their horses Pet and Patty, with their dog, Jack. Before you realize it, the landscape is a mass of grasses blowing in the wind, and the sky is wide open.

The prairie is filled with animals like rabbits and gophers, and Pa goes off a bit to hunt. This is a classic because this is a closeness to pioneer life. There seems to be no one near except for the animals. Before long they were building a house, but Pa had to go to the creek and load logs from the bottom. Then after Ma hurt her foot, he couldn’t build it alone. That was when they met their friend and neighbor Mr. Edwards.

The best part of this book is once again Christmas, when Mr. Edwards became Santa Claus (Or St. Nick as they called him) and brought presents over for them despite the rise of the creek. I like this part because it really shows how little they really had in that era. The Ingalls family had maybe one or two toys each. Laura only talked about her doll, Charlotte. They didn’t receive a toy that year, but they each got their own tin cup and didn’t have to share anymore.

On the Banks of Plum Creek

My favorite when I was a little girl was On the Banks of Plum Creek for the simple fact that she was a tomboy like I was. Laura and her sisters would play in the creek, while I remember when I would play in the brook with my sisters. It seems strange to think that this was my favorite of the series because there are few really memorable parts in it. There was the Christmas when they buy horses to help Pa get work done on the new farm. This is an important part also because Laura ends up marrying Almanzo who is known for his horses. Laura seems to have a close connection with them as it is mentioned in On the Shores of Silver Lake when she rode on her cousins horse, bareback. Then in These Happy Golden Years she rode with Almanzo in his buggy and drove his horses many times.

This book also introduces us to school in the 1880‘s. This is the first time Laura interacts with other kids her age since Wisconsin when she was maybe about four. School is also important to Laura as she becomes a teacher then an award winning author. In the books I get the impression that Laura is much smarter or farther ahead than other kids, Ma had home schooled them until then.

As in every book and every place she moved to, Wilder also writes about their home they made there. I thought the whole dug-out idea was really neat, and it was a thrill as usual to read Laura’s descriptions. Laura describes every detail vividly, special things that stand out like the mantel that Pa made Ma with the China Sheperdess that Ma brought with her from Wisconsin. They had a “what-not” that they had made one year with friends.

Of course you can’t forget about the Christmas without Pa. He had gone to town and ended up stuck in blizzard for about four days. He had to stop where he had a little cover in a bank, and ate all the Christmas candy and oysters so that he did not starve. This part of the book is actually entertaining as Pa tells the story like he used to tell in the big woods. Was it really as Pa says or just what Laura remembered and imagined? There are some things that are just better to be left with this question.

original artwork by Garth Williams
original artwork by Garth Williams

On the Shores of Silver Lake

When they travel to Silver Lake and the town of De Smet is still a twinkle in her fathers eyes, Laura is still young enough to enjoy herself and be the tomboy she loves to be. Even though Mary has been struck blind somewhere in between the books, she first enjoys some fun with her cousin that she hasn’t seen since in the big woods, then Carrie is finally old enough to play. So much seems to have happened in between the books which is really amazing seeing all that you read about. When did the final daughter, Grace, come into the picture? Suddenly she is there and Carrie is no longer the baby. After Mary came down with a horrible sickness that ran rampant, she was struck blind. Somehow, I felt that Laura needed to write another book in between just so I wouldn’t have to miss any of her life, but maybe there just wasn’t enough. They spent quite a few happy years at Plum Creek and only left because of the promise of wealth and prosperity that so many people yearned for back then. The chance to have this great life seemed to start off poorly in Silver Lake because they were forced to spends some time in a tiny little shanty while Charles worked at a store to make enough money to start his farm on his new claim. It was even a challenge to get this free land and even more of a challenge to eek out any kind of wealth from the lands the first year they are there. Even though there is so much work with so little reward, the family stays optimistic and sure that Charles Ingalls will make it in this land, and that they will get through on top.

During the winter, they are the only ones to stay there because the town is not yet developed, but they are blessed with people that were kind enough to let them stay in their house while they were gone. This proved to be a very easy winter except when it came close to spring and settlers started arriving like crazy. All these people had nowhere to stay so while the Ingalls were forced to take on boarders, they charged a little money which ended up helping them to get through the hard winter the following year. Without that money they made, they would surely have starved.

The Long Winter

It is so easy to forget that we didn’t have what we have today. In the 1800’s there was less money and less ways to make money. There was still a line drawn between the rich and poor, but the poor were really poor, living off of potatoes and brown bread through three cold, winter months like in the book The Long Winter. Seven months of blizzards was predicted by an Indian according to Laura, and the Indian was right. They were living in town so they didn't think that they could be out of everything, but the train kept being delayed because they “could not cut through the Tracy Line”; there were blizzards almost every day, they had to give up.

When I feel so poor and miserable with myself, I pick up this book or any other of hers for that matter, and I am reminded of how awful my life could have been if I had lived in the 1800s. Laura asks her Mother flat out if they are going to starve, she learns how to twist hay into sticks so they can have a fire and stay warm. This book sounds sad as I tell it, but somehow this wonderful writer can make the stories almost magical because you will be entranced.

The first winter in Dakota Territory is told in detail through The Long Winter, and it is the only winter we hear of that was so bad that it lasted about seven months and you were lucky if there was no blizzard for three days ,actually, more than lucky as they sometimes lasted even four days. They couldn’t cut through the snow on the railroad to deliver food and coal because as soon as they got it clear it would blizzard again. Everyone thought they would be fine living in town close to stores and people despite the old Indians warning about the long winter that was coming.

Because the Ingalls family were already very poor, they did not have enough coal or food to last. Almanzo and his friend braved the deadly weather to travel to someone whom they had heard might have wheat. They only did this because there were people starving that couldn’t make it the whole way. Almanzo didn’t want to have to sell his wheat seed either, because he was saving it to plant for his farm. It is a great part of the book because you are introduced once again into his life. Farmer Boy was an excellent story on Almanzo, but because there are so many books as it is I chose not to write a long essay about it; it is still worth mentioning.

I love The Long Winter because of the things they do just to stay alive. Laura asked of her Ma once near the end of the book “Ma, are we going to starve?” All they had to eat for most of the winter was bread and potatoes. When they ran out of flour they had to grind wheat seed in a little tiny grinder, by hand. This consumed a lot of time. Along with that they ran out of coal and the only way to cook and stay warm-at least warm enough not to freeze-by twisting hay into sticks. This consumed the rest of their time. It didn’t take long for them to run out of kerosene so Ma became creative with a button, but once the sun was down and they were finished eating, they had to go to bed. This was partly because it was too cold.

Little Town on the Prairie

With the new life made for them out by silver lake, they finally start to settle down and find happiness with their garden even though the crows ate the corn and oats, and with the jobs available for Pa and even Laura made some money sewing shirts so that they could send Mary to college for the blind. The most amazing thing about Laura is that all she wants is to earn money to make Mary happy, and help feed everyone she has not even one selfish thought about what she could buy with the money she worked so hard for. Everything really comes together for the Ingalls family in this book, which is a little refreshing after plodding along through The Long Winter.

I always think of this book as “Little House in the Town”. This is partly because they had a little house on the prairie, but they have one in town that they stay in during the winter. The house in town is actually a store that Pa built. Their “claim," which is basically their land after five years, is where they have built a “shanty” and are starting to make a new life for themselves. This is also close enough to fulfill Ma’s wishes, and now Laura and Carrie can walk to school. Mary does not go to school because she is blind, but everyone is hoping that they can earn enough money to send her to a special school which they do after Laura gets work one summer.

One part of this book is about the fourth of July celebration in town. This was the first time that Laura was in any crowd whatsoever, and it almost scared her. This is interesting because every year after that, they spend the fourth of July at home. They buy firecrackers and candy and have a big dinner. It so personifies how different it was in the 1880’s, most of America was not settled, there were some towns like De Smet, but there was nowhere near the amount of people there are today. It was a rare thing for Laura to leave home except for school or church until this point in her life.

Suddenly, Laura is getting older and can work. First, she sews shirts for a business that doesn’t last. Then at the end of the book she gets her teacher’s certificate when she was only fifteen!

The best part of the book is that Almanzo is finally interested in her and they begin to establish almost a courting relationship. It is also interesting to start reading about fashion, like the hoops that come into style.

Which is your favorite of the first three Little House books?

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More Important Details

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 in Wisconsin

Publishing her books in 1932 until 1943, then later on she wrote the last four which took four years. Others were also published afterward including The First Four Years where she writes about her life with Almanzo, On the Way Home and West from Home which includes accounts about her daughter, Rose Wilder. These were published by Rose Wilder.

Laura passed away in 1957

Parts of the book series are known to be part of a curriculum for children that are home-schooled (especially if they are religious).

There are many trips that you can take to visit historical sites like a museum or a replica of the house on the prairie. This website will give you all the comprehensive information you will need.

These Happy Golden Years

In These Happy Golden Years, you wonder at the name when the book starts off because Laura does not seem too happy about leaving home to teach school, but only because of the miserable place she was forced to stay at. But this is only a small fraction of the book; The happiness must come from the fact the Almanzo is very noticeably taken with her, and is soon “courting” her. I am once again amazed at the difference between this book and the first four books, but I am still very enthralled. There are a few things that Laura writes about that are similar even today. Socializing is still important even in the small town of De Smet, and Laura writes more in detail about the friends she has made and parties that she goes to. It is comforting to know that she struggled with loneliness and the need for friendship just like many people in this age and time. It seems the more the Ingalls family has, the more Laura thinks about these things. Suddenly, work is not enough and while in a way I miss hearing about the hardships they endured, it is a relief to read about their happiness.

These Happy Golden Years describes her brown poplin dress and hat that had blue ribbons. These matched her eyes exactly, and when she put it on she finally realized that she was now “a young lady”. Almanzo picks her up for rides in the cutter (sleigh) then he buys a shiny, new buggy just so that he can bring her for rides with his new team of horses. The way that he seems to want to show off that he has a great “claim” and lots of money is exactly the way men act in this century, only they show off with fast cars.

Once again Laura works first as a “helper” for sewing at a new dress shop and then a tiny school is built closer to the shanty which is slowly becoming a house where Laura teaches three children earning easy money. She is unselfish with her money once again, and buys an organ for Mary to play when she came home. In a way I think Laura was just so happy to think about the great music they could have; she always loved hearing Pa play the fiddle, and singing, and dancing. This organ required a lot of extra space so a new room was made, now it was more like living in a house.


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    • Lynn Savitsky profile image

      Lynn Savitzky 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      Big Woods and Plum Creek are the first two books I ever read from this series. I adore them!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Oh I was the same, loved Laura's books and read them every winter right about Holiday time and made sure The Long Winter came about Christmas time. I think that is my favorite. You probably would get more readers on this if you made it in two parts but of course as Hub Pages advices don't call it part one and part two since it is a turn off for many readers, and I know because I wrote some stories of me as a little girl here and numbered them and they just went flat but after going in and removing the chapter numbers they went up in reads and one of them is my very top hub now.

      Just a suggestion. Great to find a fellow Laura Ingalls fan. ^

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      My whole family enjoys all of Laura's work. It certainly was one of my inspirations for my family saga stories set in the southern Missouri Ozarks.

    • erinb62 profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin Buttermore 

      7 years ago from Laconia

      Thanks for pointing that out kirsteno. I guess she didn't write those books in 1971 then. oops!

    • kirsteno profile image


      7 years ago

      Laura died on February 10, 1957. Otherwise, good hub!


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