BOOK REVIEW: Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Review of: Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill

Genre: Historical, Autobiography

If you were anything like me as a child, you may or may not have read The Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By The Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four years, until the pages were dogeared and the binding fell apart. You probably had a favorite, and that favorite probably changed through your childhood, as you grew up along with Laura. For me, it has been way too long since I read the series last, but I can’t really justify rereading it to myself until my Sophiapea is old enough to listen while I read aloud, and I have too many other books to read etc. BUT, finding this book was a wonderful surprise. It was sitting out at my library on the display table and I snatched it up.

I have to say, I read every word in the book–Introduction, footnotes, manuscript, appendices–and it was incredible. Pioneer Girl is the original, first draft of an autobiographical manuscript that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote. It preceded the entire Little House series, and was written simply as an autobiography. Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter, edited it and worked for a while to find a publisher, however, at the time, the only publisher willing to take it was more interested in a juvenile book, so Rose had her mother convert it to children’s stories and beloved childrens series was born. One thing that is incredibly interesting about this manuscript is how succinct it is. A great many of the events from the books in the children’s series are recounted in the Pioneer Girl manuscript, but the stories that made up entire books are told in just a few brief sentences. It is really apparent how Wilder grew as a story-teller through the writing of the series. Even more interesting are the details that are left out of the books, OR fictional additions that served merely to pull the story along.
The manuscript itself is quite short, but each page is accompanied by a couple pages of footnotes, and the footnotes are filled with historical detail and background.

I felt like I learned quite a bit about the history of the west, during the time period that wilder writes of, and the reality that went into the Little House series. It gave me chills, and so I kept fangirling about it to my husband as I read, which cracked him up (and made him roll his eyes just a little bit.)

I think it’s pretty obvious who this book will appeal too. Obviously, it appeals to anybody who read and loved The Little House books, or the Laura books, or whatever you called them. Which brings me to a question: What do you call the entire series? I’ve always called them The Little House books, or the Laura books, but I’m not sure that either of those is the official name for the series. Is it one of those things that everybody has a slightly different take on? Leave a comment and let me know!
Even without the background of being a die-hard, Little House fan, I think this book would appeal to anybody interested in autobiography and history. It’s really an interesting book, with lots of interesting historical facts about the west, and how certain laws regarding territory (and the territory struggles between the Native Americans and settlers from the east) affected pioneers like the Ingalls.

I loved this book: 5 out of 5 stars

pioneer girl