Books related to Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

I was talking with a friend about the upcoming Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge hosted here in February (more information is here), and she mentioned that she wanted to participate but would like to read something other than the Little House books. So I thought I’d share some of those titles for anyone else seeking that kind of information as well.

As far as I know, the only books that Laura wrote as books are the nine Little House ones, as well as her first unpublished book titled Pioneer Girl,  (which is not the same thing as a biography of her by the same title)  which she and her daughter, Rose, later reworked into the Little House series. But there are a few books of her writings compiled and published after her death. Those are:

Little House in the Ozarks: the Rediscovered Writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder, compiled and edited by Stephen Hines, a collection of newspaper columns and magazine articles she wrote before starting the Little House books, reviewed here. Saving Graces: the Inspirational Writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder, reviewed here, is a collection of inspirational or faith-based columns pulled from this book. The same editor’s three books beginning with Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder appears to be the same type of thing: some of the columns from the first book sorted into different categories.

On the Way Home, a diary of her move with her husband and daughter in a covered wagon from South Dakota to Missouri.

West From Home, letters Laura wrote to Almonzo while visiting their daughter in San Francisco, where she visited the World’s Fair.

A Little House Traveler contains the above two books plus the previously unpublished The Road Back, about the first trip she and Almonzo took back to De Smet, where Laura grew up and where they met.

A Little House Sampler, stories and writings of Laura as well as of Rose Wilder Lane, compiled by William T. Anderson.

There may be some other “compilation” type books, but these are the ones I know of. I have only read the one compiled by Stephen Hines so far.

Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, wrote Let the Hurricane Roar (also known as Young Pioneers) about her grandparents’ “prairie life,” I believe before the Little House books were written or planned. Laura didn’t start writing until in her 60s, if I remember correctly. Another of Rose’s prairie-based books is Free Land: I am not sure if that one was specifically based on her family’s story or not. I have not read either of these but I have Let the Hurricane Roar on hand and hope to read it next month. These books are written for adults, while Laura’s were written for children. Rose wrote a number of other books: she was more well-known as a writer than her mother until the Little House books caught on: then Laura’s fame surpassed hers. There is disagreement in scholarly circles as to how much of the Little House books was actually written by Rose. Rose insisted they were all her mother’s work, but it seems likely that Rose would have shaped and edited them to some degree. Those who have read more of Roses’s writing seem to feel that her style is so different from that of the Little House books that they can’t believe she would have been the main writer behind them. That’s what I like to think, but I suppose we’ll never know for sure.

Some years ago Roger Lea MacBride published a series of books based on Rose’s childhood. When I first saw them, I didn’t realize they were about Rose and I was miffed that someone was seeming to horn in on the Little House fame by trying to write similar books. I didn’t realize until last year that MacBride was something of an unofficial adopted son of Rose’s and her sole heir. I didn’t realize until today that he was the co-creator and co-producer of the Little House on the Prairie TV series and that he had the rights to them. So he was much more closely related to the Little House world than I thought. I’d like to read these books some time but I don’t think I’ll get to them this year. I will forewarn you, though, that Rose is a very very different person than her mother in many ways. Of course, the times in which she grew up were quite different as well.

A more modern and kind of fun, though irreverent, book relating to Laura is The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Laura fan extraordinaire, reviewed here. Wendy set about to try to recapture something of “Laura world” by trying different Laura experiences (churning butter. etc.) and visiting the different sites where her family lived.

Then there are any number of biographies about Laura. So far I have only read I Remember Laura by Stephen W. Hines, reviewed here, a collection or articles and interviews of people who actually knew Laura.

Then there is Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson, a Little House Cookbook (which I bought but have not delved into yet), a Little House Crafts Book, The Little House Guidebook about the different sites and museums associated with Laura.

Those are the Laura-related books I am familiar with. Do you know of any others?

18 thoughts on “Books related to Laura Ingalls Wilder

  1. I may have another book at home not listed here – can’t remember right off – will check tonight.

    I didn’t care as much for the MacBride series, nor the series someone wrote about Caroline about fifteen years ago when many people were jumping on the LIW bandwagon. Nobody can write like Laura!!

    When at her home in Missouri last summer, I learned that Rose had much to do with shaping the books, more than she is really given credit for. It is understandable that with her editorial background she would be very hands-on in helping her mother, who though very intelligent did not have any book-writing experience, particularly with the first book or two.

  2. I have SAVING GRACES – THE INSPIRATIONAL WRITINGS OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER edited by Stephen Hines, and LAURA by Donald Zochert (a biography from 1975). Are either of those on your list?

    • Yes, I have Saving Graces listed up there with the books published after her death. I haven’t heard of the other, but really people can read any biography of her for the challenge. Thanks for mentioning that one!

  3. It is true what you said about Roger Lea MacBride being closely associated to Rose and was her heir; however, the Rose books are mostly fiction. Looking forward to joining your challenge. Am reading Pamela Smith’s biography on Laura right now.

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  5. Important to note William Anderson’s books. He has been active in researching and publishing about the Ingalls and Wilder families’ histories since the 1960s. He corresponded with Rose, who read his first book about the family, which was published when Anderson was still a teenager. In that book, his research revealed that some of the events in real life differed from the narrative of the Little House books, and Rose, intent on keeping up a particular mythology, was moved to express to him that he “correct” such statements.

    Anderson has gone on to write and revise numerous titles and has been one of the most (quite possibly THE most) influential in his tireless efforts to save family homes and artifact collections. He has brought to light many of Laura’s other writings and has been an enormous help to the various homesite museums devoted to the Ingalls and Wilder families. His constant encouragement, public appearances, board membership, research and scholarship have made it possible for thousands of visitors to enjoy the families’ legacy through museum visits and traveling exhibits. Additionally, he has been a powerful force in encouraging others, myself included, to dig deeply into Wilder’s and Lane’s work and find new information to add to the scholarship he began as a young boy.

    As for Mac Bride, the reputation of (as one commentor here references) “evil” is largely due to the fact of the long dispute over LIW’s estate. MacBride was Rose’s designated heir who also happened to be a lawyer; together, they made changes to the Wilder estate (after Laura’s death) which diverted rights to the books–Laura had previously otherwise designated–and MacBride ultimately benefitted. The case was brought to court several years ago and the MacBride interest prevailed. A study presented at LauraPalooza in 2012 concluded that, while technically legal, Mac Bride’s actions in the 1960s regarding the disposition of Wilder’s estate were questionable in terms of ethics and there was a conflict of interest that could not be ignored.

    Further, there is MacBride’s involvement in the perpetuation of “fictional biography” in his publication of the largely invented Rose Wilder Lane: Her Story (published years after Lane’s death) and “The Rose Years,” which also take very big liberties with facts and appear to have little literary merit. All of the “spin-off” titles called Little House Years and featuring different women in Laura’s maternal line suffer a similar problem and overall have the effect of the publishing industry cashing in on Wilder’s and Lane’s legacies while promoting the “authenticity” of the stories.

    In more recent years, and not the fault of Mac Bride, the Little House on the Prairie Museum near Independence, Kansas, was challenged by the descendants of Ed Friendly, who owned the rights to the television show. This dispute was yet another apparent attempt for a powerful entity to throw its weight around and bully a small historical museum (it is located on the exact spot where the Ingalls family lived in Kansas, documented and maintained by scholars) out of business.

    Luckily, this time, the historical interest largely prevailed, and the museum in Kansas is allowed to continue operation, but these events over the decades have caused rifts between scholars and the “powers that be” in the area of rights to the use of the “Little House ®” name or even to reference quotations of Laura’s writing. Scholars of History and Literature, for example, are charged extremely high fees to use a single photograph or quotation in a published work about LIW or RWL, and these charges make it cost-prohibitive to include vital materials in published work, even when that work is distributed to an extremely small audience.

    All grievances aside….

    Some really good titles to explore:

    William Anderson: Laura Ingalls Wilder, A Biography
    Any of his “Laura Ingalls Wilder Family Series” books, which feature different aspects of the families’ histories.
    New in 2013, Anderson published a much-revised edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Walnut Grove, which was enhanced this time around with information regarding new scholarship in the Ingalls family at Walnut Grove, the popularity of the TV show and resulting affect on the modern day town of Walnut Grove (no, it was never blown up with dynamite!), as well as interviews with many important names in the current world of LIW scholarship and fandom.

    More titles…
    John E. Miller:
    Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Woman Behind The Legend
    Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town (all about the De Smet, SD which Laura knew, with some great surprises).

    Pamela Smith Hill: Laura Ingalls Wilder, A Writer’s Life (Marie mentioned this in earlier comments; well worth rrading and it settles the “how much did Rose do?” question from the perspective of a modern YA author).
    Sorry to be so long-winded! Can you tell how passionate I am about this?

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  12. Another compilation by Stephen W. Hines is “I Remember Laura.” You already mentioned “Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings,” edited by Stephen W. Hines. It was fun to read that one, and see the values implied in the Little House books expressed in her articles. I’ve laughed many times about “The Old Dash Churn,” where she confessed that she dropped the new, inefficient one – “just as far as I could.”

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