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Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Books: Stories that Made Me a Pioneer

Updated on December 17, 2015
 Prairie Homestead, Milepost 213 on I-29, South Dakota
Prairie Homestead, Milepost 213 on I-29, South Dakota

My first introduction to these books was when Mom took them home from the library and read them to us as bedtime stories when I was six or so.

By about the third chapter I was so enthralled by Laura's story that I couldn't wait for bedtime any more and started reading the book for myself. And still waited, excited for bedtime for Mom to read the chapters I already had.

Laura's Journey

Based on her true life adventures, the Little House Books follow Laura Ingalls and her pioneer family from age 5, growing up in the 1870s Wisconsin woods through to the first four years of her marriage in De Smet, South Dakota. For most of the series, the Ingalls family is in search of a homestead, forced to move because of crop failure, changing government regulations and the hopes of a small patch of land to call their own.

From a small (and possibly bratty) child, who wants to be good, to an independent young woman Laura shares her fears and foibles with a glaring honesty. She starts out jealous of her beautiful golden haired older sister (Laura's hair is dull and brown.) and when Mary is blinded by scarlet fever, becomes her protector and guide.

I felt her frustration over the haughty Nellie Olsen, her first blushing meeting with her future husband Almanzo and her agony over the aging and eventual death of her beloved dog, Jack. I cried when she was punished, laughed when she played in the haystack and applauded when she got her first teaching job.

My Own Pioneer Journey

I know that Ingalls-Wilder meant to let children know what life was like back in her day. I don't know if she meant it to be a guidebook for homesteaders. But that's how I took it. These books taught me how to build a smokehouse, to make cheese and to cook johnny cake over a campfire, and a few hundred other skills.

Four decades after I'd first read the books, they inspired me to start my own pioneer journey to Colorado.

Me, Hubby and our roommate hitched two trailers up tp a pair of trucks and in our modern Conestoga wagons, drove to the foothills of the Rockies and planted ourselves on 40 acres of wilderness.

Our plan? Just to get back to the land. We'd raise Yaks for wool and dairy, grow a garden, build a dugout or a straw bale.I could feel Pa's spirit rising within me. The desire to have something to call my own. A wish to till the soil and let our hard but loving labor speak for itself.

Were we crazy? Absolutely,

But maybe crazy in a good way. Pa Ingalls maintained his optimism to the end, and I can too.

One of the hallmarks of the Little House series was that something always seemed to go wrong for the Ingalls family. If it wasn't Native Americans (rightfully) reclaiming their land, then it was hail or grasshoppers or Scarlet Fever.

For us:

In the two years we lived on our land, the yaks broke through their corral three times. They went on walkabout and in one case it took us two months to locate them again.

During the winter, our land was inaccessible by truck. To get groceries (and hay for the yaks) we had to hike 1/2 mile across our neighbor's land. Finally in cell phone range (our land wasn't) We'd call a cab, go into town, get our groceries. Then we had to sled our purchases (groceries, hay, propane, gas for the generator) back over 1/2 mile of half frozen mud, snow and slush.

A single trip to the store took as much as a day or two to get everything home.

Through it all, when the work got hard, the days grew bleak and the snow drifts piled thigh-high around us, I remembered Laura's Long Winter. She had made it through and I knew I could as well.

And now that circumstances have ousted me from my dreamed of and beloved farm, I continue to gain strength from Pa's and Laura's optimism, that they'd one day find their forever home. My dream hasn't gone away, just been postponed.

I read this series over and over, at least once per decade, often twice. Read it with your children and grandchildren or just as a guilty pleasure for yourself.

The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories
The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories

Maybe because her family was often hungry, Laura writes a LOT about food in her novels. I love this cookbook! A history of pioneer cooking, and recipies for some of Laura's favorite foods, from the Stewed Jackrabbit and Dumplings that made a special feast for Mr. Edwards to Salt-Rising Bread and a recipe for a cooling lemonade-like drink made with vinegar, since lemons were rare on the prarie - I tried it and it was surprisingly good.

 

Did you grow up with the Little House Books and love them?

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A beautifully done trailer for the Little house books! Must see!.

A Little House Timeline

(click column header to sort results)
Title  
Published  
Timeline  
Location  
Little House in the Big Woods
1932
1870 *
Pepin, WI
Farmer Boy
1933
1866-1867
Malone, NY
Little House on the Prarie
1935
1869–1870
Independence, KS
On the Banks of Plum Creek
1937
1871 to 1874
Redwood County, MN near Walnut Grove, MN
By the Shores of Silver Lake
1939
Begins in 1979
Walnut Grove, MN & De Smett, SD
The Long Winter
1940
1880-1881**
De Smett, SD
Little Town on the Prarie
1941
Begins 1881
De Smett, SD
These Happy Golden Years
1943
1882-1885
De Smett, SD
The First Four Years
1971
1885-1889
De Smett, SD
Overview of the Little House Books * the timeline of this book was skewed by the publisher. Laura was actually 3 at the time of this book, not 5. **This book is the first one in the series where Laura's age is historically correct.

I'm not sure, but I think this MIGHT be my librarian! I'll have to ask her. Maybe a little too much focus on when everyone died, but fascinating nonetheless.

How awesome! A tiny lending library - take a book, leave a book. I want to build one for my neighborhood!

© 2014 Lionrhod

Do you love the Little House Books? Tell me your stories about them. or just say hi!

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    • dancingdiva02 profile image

      dancingdiva02 3 years ago

      I love these books!

    • Lionrhod profile image
      Author

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      @GrammieOlivia: :)

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      Our family enjoyed the TV series, but my daughter who is an avid reader, read these from cover to cover at least once.......

    • Lionrhod profile image
      Author

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      @Loretta L: :) They are some of my absolute favorite books. And the TV series was pretty good. The movie too!

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 3 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I used to watch the tv series. I came across some of the books as an adult.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 3 years ago from Concord VA

      I love these books! I've read them many times myself. :)

    • Lionrhod profile image
      Author

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      @Charito1962: That was a great series! So sorry we lost Michael Landon. Try the books - they're brilliant!

    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Hi. I never read the books, but I enjoyed watching the TV series "Little House on the Prairie".

    • AnonymousC831 profile image

      AnonymousC831 3 years ago from Kentucky

      I love the Little House books. Great lens.

    • profile image

      SingeBlue 3 years ago

      What I love about the Little House books is how she gives actual directions for making things.

      Wilder shows how they made a ball from a pig's bladder. The book shows how the family had to move many times and kept themselves from discouragement.

      I enjoyed how much my children loved the series, and now I feel inspired to read the books to my grandchildren!

    • Lionrhod profile image
      Author

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      @Virginia Allain: Oohh! Don't think I've heard of that! Running to look it up! Thank you!

    • Lionrhod profile image
      Author

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      @SusanDeppner: TY much! Yes for boys too! I learned so much from this series. And maybe above all, how to be a decent human!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      You would also like the Carrie Woodlawn classic children's book. Similar biographical pioneer story.

    • Lionrhod profile image
      Author

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      @Jerzimom: Oh nifty! I want to go someday! How was it?

    • Jerzimom profile image

      Cheryl Fay Mikesell 3 years ago from Ladysmith, WI

      I love about little house show and books everything! I've been to one of the homes in Pepin, WI.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      The Little House books are great for homeschool unit studies for just the reasons that you mentioned. All the homesteading and adventures make this a great series for young boys, too. Great review!

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