Author: Donald Zochert
Major Themes: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneers, Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Biography, US History 1865-1900
Synopsis: How was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s real life different from the books she wrote for children about her life?
After we finished reading the Little House books, I asked the boys if they wanted to hear Laura’s biography. We had read it together a number of years ago, but most of them didn’t remember it. They decided they wanted to, so I pulled Laura off the shelf. It took awhile to get through it, but we found it quite fascinating to compare the real story with what Laura put into her stories for children.
There are nine long chapters in this book, describing Laura’s life from birth until death. The author has done extensive research, using many sources. Laura’s own writings were a major source, of course; she had written about her life for her daughter, telling the real story of her life. Census records are also quoted, and the author has studied old plat maps and newspaper stories, as well.
One chapter describes the Ingalls family’s year or so in Iowa, which was apparently such a low time in their lives that Laura completely skipped it when she wrote her children’s books. We enjoyed learning about this time of her life, as well as her later years which she also did not write about for children.
If you enjoy reading the Little House books, you might want to give Laura a try. I had one or two people listening to me read who considered this book boring, but the others found it quite interesting. As I said, we quite enjoyed seeing the differences between what really happened and what she chose to publish!
WARNING: In chapter 3, Pa says, Great Gehoshophat! Later in this chapter mention is made of a man shooting himself. In chapter 4, Pa exclaims, Great Jinks!
Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults