Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2018 Sign-up

It’s time for the Laura Ingalls Wilder reading Challenge for 2018! The basic idea is to read anything by, about, or relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder during February, the month of her birth and death. I have an extensive book list here if you’d like some ideas beyond the Little House series, but if course the Little House series is delightful to read or reread.

In the comments below let us know what you’re planning to read. On Feb. 28 I’ll have a wrap-up post where you can tell us how you did and what you thought, either in the comments or with a link back to your posts. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you do I’d appreciate your linking back here.

Sometimes participants have done projects or made recipes from the series as well. If you do so, please do share with us! Annette at Little House Companion has some activities and other resources.

I like to have some sort of drawing to offer a prize concluding the challenge, and I decided to once again offer one winner the choice of:

The Little House Cookbook compiled by Barbara M. Walker


Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

If neither of those suits you, I can substitute a similarly-priced Laura book of your choice. To be eligible, leave a comment on the wrap-up post at the end of the month telling us what you read for this challenge. I’ll choose a name through a week from then to give everyone time to get their last books and posts finished.

This year I am planning to read:

  • The First Four Years, the last in the Little House series
  • Death On the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst, a modern mystery set around some of the places Laura lived.
  • Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell. I had not heard of this, but it happened to catch my eye while I was in the library. It’s about a modern family with problems going to a “Camp Frontier.”
  • Last year I bought a set of My First Little House Books, after reading Rebekah’s wonderful review. I haven’t even opened them yet, but I want to look through them and hopefully see if Timothy might sit still long enough to look at one or two.

How about you? Will you be joining us this year? What will you be reading?

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

Reminder: Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

Just a reminder that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge starts here a week from tomorrow on Feb. 1! More information and an extended book list is here (you don’t have to choose a book from the list: it’s just there for suggestions).

I’ll have a post here next Thursday where you can sign up to let us know you are participating and what you plan to read. I’m looking forward to seeing what your choices are!

Reading Plans for 2018

I have enjoyed reading ever since I first learned how, and the past few years I’ve benefited from being more intentional in my reading rather than just picking up the next thing on the shelf. I’ve wanted to incorporate classics, non-fiction, and new books as well as getting to more of my beloved fiction and some of the older books I have on hand. A few reading challenges have both helped me in those ways and made it fun to do with others. So one of my favorite things to do is map out my reading plans for the year. Many of the challenges overlap, so that helps – otherwise I’d probably only be able to do one. I’ve been tweaking it year by year to be more purposeful and yet have some flexibility in case I come across something during the year that I want to read that isn’t on any list. Last year was one of the best in all those ways, so I am hoping this year will be as well.

So these are the challenges I will participate in. For the first few I’ll just list the challenge and will share what books I’ll read when the time comes. Then I’ll list the challenges where I have already chosen what to read.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge is hosted right here during the month of February! More information is here as well as an extended book list. On Feb. 1 I’ll post a sign-up post and share then what I’ll be reading.


Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June, so I will share at that time what I will read for that challenge.

aliterarychristmas-buttonTarissa also hosts the Literary Christmas Challenge for the last six weeks of the year. The main rule: read Christmas book!

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge. She comes up with categories and we come up with a classic at least 50 years old to fit each category. She also gives away a prize – a $30 gift card to or The Book Depository. You get one entry for the prize drawing for six categories completed, two entries for nine categories completed, and three entries if you complete all twelve. We don’t have to name the books, but it helps me to do so, and we are allowed to change during the course of the year. As with each of these challenges, more information is provided at the links above. So the classics I am going to aim for this year include:

1.  A 19th century classic. Something by Dickens or Wilkie Collins. I have unread books by both of them, so I’ll need to decide later which to choose.

2.  A 20th century classic (published before 1968). I am thinking about The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve always been a little wary of it, so I haven’t quite decided. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (1903)

3.  A classic by a woman author. Adam Bede by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)

4.  A classic in translation (Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language.) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870)(Finished 1/26/18)

5. A children’s classic. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)(Finished 2/3/18)

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction, which she goes on to say can be a detective or spy novel. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. (1908)(Finished 1/18/18)

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

8. A classic with a single-word title (no articles). Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

9. A classic with a color in the title. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

10. A classic by an author that’s new to you. He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe

11. A classic that scares you (due to its length or it intimates you in some way). The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. I have come close to reading it many times and then backed away, but Tarissa’s review encouraged me toward trying it.

12. Re-read a favorite classic.Many would fit this category. I am thinking David Copperfield, but we’ll see.

Adam at Roof Beam Reader hosts the TBR Pile Challenge to encourage us to get to those books on our shelves, Kindles, or TBR lists. For this one we have to name the books we are going to read, along with two alternates (in case we can’t get through a couple on our list), and we have to have owned them for at least a year, so any book on our To Be Read pile published 2016 and earlier qualifies. And! Adam offers a prize: a drawing for a $50 gift card from or The Book Depository! Tempting for any book lover! So here is what I plan to read for this challenge:

  1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett(Finished 2/3/18)
  2. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (Finished 1/18/18)
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  5. Adam Bede by George Eliot
  6. He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe
  7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870)(Finished 1/26/18)
  8. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  9. Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His own Body by Martin Pistorious (Copyright 2013, Finished 1/8/18)
  10. Going Like Sixty by Richard Armour
  11. Sins of the Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason
  12. Another Way Home by Deborah Raney

Alternates: Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin and Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser (2006)(Finished 1/28/18)

As I finish them, I’ll come back and link the title to my review.

mount-tbr-2017Bev hosts the Mount TBR Challenge to also encourage us to read the books we already own, but with a few differences. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. We don’t have to list the books yet (although some books for the above TBR challenge will count for this one as well), but we do have to commit to a level. I am tempted to try for Mt. Vancouver (36 books) since I passed that last year, but I think I’ll keep my options open and commit to Mount Blanc (24 books). The one main rule here is that the books have to have been owned by us before January 1, 2018. But that means every book in my house and Kindle app on Jan. 1, even the ones I just got for Christmas, count! I appreciate that because too often I push my newer books back behind the ones that have been sitting there for a while.

So I think that will keep me busy for a while. 🙂 People often ask me how I get to so much reading, so once I wrote Finding Time to Read. On the other hand, last year I read 76 books, but some blog friends read twice that! So I’m not at all in the “big leagues” when it comes to reading, but I do love it for various reasons.

Do you make any reading plans for the year? What do you look forward to reading this year?

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Book)

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

mount-tbr-2017For the past few years, Bev has been hosting the Mount TBR Challenge to encourage us to read the books we already have on our shelves or in our Kindle apps. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed.

I only committed to Mount Blanc (24 books), but right near the end of the year I thought I had made it to Mt. Ararat (48 books). But then while preparing this post I saw I had one book listed twice! 😦 So I fell just short and can only claim Mt. Vancouver (36) though I read 47.

Bev also devised this fun exercise, pairing familiar proverbs with the book titles we’ve read. Here are mine:

A stitch in time…[keeps] All Things New.
Don’t count your chickens…[with] The Silent Songbird.
A penny saved is….[is] A Proper Pursuit.
All good things must come… [to] A Place of Quiet Rest.
When in Rome… [take a] Snapshot.
All that glitters is notThe Golden Braid.
A picture is worth aA Portrait of Emily Price.
When the going gets tough, the tough getTwo Roads Home.
Two wrongs don’t makeTraces of Guilt.
The pen is mightier than….the Love of the Summerfields.
The squeaky wheel getsThe Sweetest Thing.
Hope for the best, but prepare forA Little Salty to Cut the Sweet.
Birds of a feather flock…[to the] June Bug.

I’ve already posted all the books I read in 2017 listed alphabetically within genres, so this list will be redundant to those who have already read my complete list. These are the already-owned books I read this year, in more or less the order I completed them. I’m adding the publication dates to make it easier for Bev since one rule for this challenge is that the books have to have been published before 2017.

  1. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner (2014)(Finished 1/9/17)
  2. The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson (2015)(Finished 1/10/17)
  3. The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson (2016)(Finished 1/15/17)
  4. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines (2016)(Finished 1/17/17)
  5. The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate (2013) (Finished /24/17)
  6. June Bug by Chris Fabry (2009) (Finished 1/26/17)
  7. The Tidewater Sisters (2014)(Finished 2/7/17)
  8. Twelve Years a Slave (Finished 2/8/17)
  9. Two Roads Home by Deborah Raney (2015)(Finished 2/15/17)
  10. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson (2016)(Finished 3/5/17)
  11. How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth (2003) by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (Finished 3/13/17)
  12. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron (2016)(Finished 3/21/17)
  13. Snapshot by Lis Wiehl (2014)(Finished 4/9/17)
  14. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1872)(Finished 4/19/17)
  15. If the Shoe Fits (2013)(Finished 4/24/17)
  16. A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (2002)(Finished 4/25/17)
  17. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (2016)(Finished 5/5/17)
  18. Waiting for Peter by Elizabeth Musser (2015) (Finished 5/9/17)
  19. Love of the Summerfields by Nancy Moser (2015) (Finished 5/16/17)
  20. Eight Women of Faith by Michael A. G. Haykin (2016)(Finished 5/23/17)
  21. The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser (2001)(Finished 5/31/17)
  22. Grow Old With Me by Melinda Evaul (2010)(Finished 6/5/17)
  23. Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin (2009)(Finished 6/18/17)
  24. Songs of a Housewife: Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1997)(Finished 6/27/17)
  25. A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin (2007)(Finished 7/3/17)
  26. Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin (2008)(Finished 7/11/17)
  27. Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More – Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior (2014)(Finished 7/13/17)
  28. The Thirty-Nine Steps by Robert Buchan (1915)(Finished 7/18/17)
  29. All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin (2005)(Finished 7/21/17)
  30. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (1886)(Finished 8/30/17)
  31. All Things New by Lynn Austin (2012)(Finished 8/3/17)
  32. Unlimited by Davis Bunn (2013)(Finished 8/5/17)
  33. The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate (2014)(Finished 9/23/17)
  34. God Is Just Not Fair by Jennifer Rothschild (2014)(Finished 9/28/17)
  35. MacArthur Study Bible ESV (2010)(Finished 9/23/17)
  36. Jane Austen: Christian Encounter Series by Peter Leithart (2010)(Finished 9/30/17)
  37. Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer (2008)(Finished 10/15/17)
  38. The Sandcastle Sister by Lisa Wingate (2015)(Finished 10/22/17)
  39. The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate (2015)(Finished 10/19/17)
  40. A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon by Sophie Hudson. (2013)(Finished 11/10/17)
  41. Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser (2016)(Finished 11/25/17)
  42. Sarah’s Song by Karen Kingsbury (2004)(Finished 12/4/17)
  43. Silver Bells by Deborah Raney (2016)(Finished 12/9/17)
  44. Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh (2015)(Finished 12/10/17)
  45. One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg (2015)(Finished 12/19/17)
  46. The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren (2009)(Finished 12/25/17)
  47. The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung (2015)(Finished 12/16/17)

I enjoyed this impetus to get to some of the books I have stacked up! I’m looking forward to participating again this year, and if you’d like to as well, the information about it is here.

Back to the Classics 2017 Wrap-up

It’s time to wrap up the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate. Karen creates the categories each year, and participants can gain entries for a prize – a $30 gift certificate towards books! – based on the number of books read. Here’s what I read for the categories this year, linked back to my reviews of them:

1.  A 19th Century Classic. Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy (1899)(Finished 9/6/17)

2.  A 20th Century Classic. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)(Finished 7/25/17) and Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington (1901)(Finished 3/8/17)(I read the text of Up From Slavery which was included in the book Uncle Tom or New Negro?: African Americans Reflect on Booker T. Washington and UP FROM SLAVERY 100 Years Later)

3.  A classic by a woman authorMiddlemarch by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)(1871)(Finished 4/18/17)

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written or published in a language other than your native language. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1897)(Finished 7/15/17)

5.  A classic published before 1800. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605)(Finished 7/8/17)

6.  A romance classic. Lavender and Old Lace by Myrtle Reed (1902)(Finished 5/3/17)

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)(Finished 7/14/17)

8.  A classic with a number in the title. Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (1853)(Finished 2/8/17)

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  Old Yeller by Fred Gipson (1956) (Finished 5/2/17)

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visitThe Story Girl by Lucy Maude Montgomery, set in Prince Edward Isle, Canada. (1911)(Finished 2/1/17)

11. An award-winning classic.The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George  Speare (Newberry Medal, 1962) (Finished around 12/8/17)

12. A Russian Classic. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (1886)(Finished 8/30/17)

Karen also asks that we let her know how many entries we qualify for so she doesn’t have to figure them for each person. Since I completed all twelve (even 13! 🙂 ), I’m eligible for three entries. She also asks for an email address: barbarah06 (at) gmail (dot) com.

Karen has the categories and information up for the Back to the Classics 2018 Challenge here if you want to look it over and think about participating next year. I’ve been trying to incorporate classics into my reading the last few years, and this has been a fun way to do it.

I’ll also put in a plug here for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2018, which will be hosted here in February and would dovetail nicely with the Classics Challenge. The Little House books would fit in the 19th century, woman author, and children’s categories, and some would fit in the travel or journey category.

Next week after Christmas I’ll post the list of books I’ve read this year and a list of my favorites of the year.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

Literary Christmas Reading Challenge

A Literary Christmas: 2017 Reading Challenge //

Tarissa at In the Bookcase is hosting a Literary Christmas Reading Challenge, and, since I like to read Christmasy books in December, I decided to join in! More information on the challenge is here.

I have read or am planning to read the following (the ones I have already read and reviewed are linked back to my reviews):

Sarah’s Song by Karen Kingsbury
Silver Bells by Deborah Raney
Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh
I’ll Be Home For Christmas, four novellas in one.
The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren
Gospel Meditations for Christmas by Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, and Michael Barrett

That will probably be more than enough, but I have a few others on hand or in my Kindle app if needed. 🙂

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2018 and Book List

I’ve noticed that a number of people are posting about next year’s reading challenges and plans already, so for those who like to plan ahead, I wanted to let you know that the Laura Ingalls Wilder reading Challenge will take place here next February. This will be our 6th year!

The idea is to read anything by or about Laura Ingalls Wilder during the month of February since her birth and death both occurred in February. Some have also incorporated some LIW activities during that month! It’s not required, but I love to see and hear about it.

I’ll have a sign-up post here on February 1st. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you do, I welcome you to post about the books you read or any activities you might do, and/or post a wrap-up of your LIW reading at the end of the month and link to our wrap-up post here on Feb. 8. If you don’t have a blog, you can let us know in the comments on that post what you read.

A few years ago I posted a list of books that I had come across by or about Laura for those people who wanted to roam beyond just the Little House books. I’ve become aware of so many more, I thought it was time for an updated list. You’re not restricted to this list by any means – these are just some that I have read or heard of. I am sure there’s multitudes more I haven’t heard of yet. I’ve linked the ones I’ve read back to my reviews.

Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder:

  • The Little House books, of course
  • Little House in the Ozarks: the Rediscovered Writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder (linked to my review), compiled and edited by Stephen Hines, a collection of newspaper columns and magazine articles she wrote before starting the Little House books
  • Saving Graces: the Inspirational Writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder (linked to my review), a collection of inspirational or faith-based writings pulled from the columns in Little House in the Ozarks.
  • Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder (3 volumes) I’ve not read this yet, but it 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 (linked to my review), letters Laura wrote to Almanzo 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.
  • Pioneer Girl (linked to my review), the script of Laura’s first draft of what was to become the Little House books, wonderfully and thoroughly annotated by Pamela Smith Hill.

Biographies of Laura:

  • I Remember Laura by Stephen W. Hines (linked to my review), a collection of articles and interviews of people who actually knew Laura.
  • There are several, William Anderson’s perhaps the most well known. More on Anderson’s work, and some information on MacBride, is here.

Books about the family by Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane:

  • Let the Hurricane Roar (also known as Young Pioneers)(linked to my review), a fictionalized novel about her grandparents’ “prairie life,” written without her mother’s permission or knowledge
  • Free Land: I don’t know if this is about any particular family members, but it is about the same times and situations.

Books about the rest of the family. I have not read any of these, so I don’t know about their authenticity, ow close or far they are from the facts:

  • Roger Lea MacBride, Rose’s sole heir and the co-creator and co-producer of the Little House on the Prairie TV series, published a series of books based on Rose’s childhood.
  • Little House: The Martha Years by Melissa Wiley, a series of books about Martha Morse, Laura’s great-grandmother
  • A series of books about Charlotte Tucker, Laura’s grandmother, also by Melissa Wiley: Little House by Boston Bay, On Tide Mill Lane, The Road from Roxbury, Across the Puddingstone Dam
  • Books about Caroline Quiner Ingalls, Laura’s mother, by Maria Wilkes
    Little House in Brookfield
    Little Town at the Crossroads
    Little Clearing in the Woods
    On Top of Concord Hill
    Across the Rolling River
    Little City by the Lake
    A Little House of Their Own
  • Old Town in the Green Groves (Little House) by Cynthia Rylant
  • Nellie Oleson Meets Laura Ingalls (Little House) by Heather Williams
  • Mary Ingalls on Her Own (Little House Sequel) by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel.
  • (Thanks to Sherry for several of these!)

For the younger set:

Modern books related to Laura:


Music related to Laura:

The following are not books, but rather blog posts or sites related to Laura:

I have plans for a couple this February, but I see many more I’d like to get to! I hope you do, too!

(Update: Be sure to check the comments for suggestions others have added.)

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)


The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge Wrap-up 2017

It’s the last day of February and so it is time to wrap up our Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge. If you’ve read anything by, about, or related to Laura this month, please share it with us in the comments. You can share a link back to your book reviews, or if you’ve written a wrap-up post, you can link back to that. If you don’t have a blog, just share in the comments what you read and your thoughts about it. We’d also love to hear if you’ve done any “Little House” related activities.

I like to have some sort of drawing to offer a prize concluding the challenge, so I am offering one winner the choice of:

The Little House Cookbook compiled by Barbara M. Walker


Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

If neither of those suits you, I can substitute a similarly-priced Laura book of your choice. To be eligible, leave a comment on this post by next Tuesday (March 7) telling us what you read for this challenge. I’ll choose a name through a week from today to give everyone time to get their last books and posts finished.

I’m afraid I can’t send the books outside of the USA due to shipping costs, but if you live outside of the US, I could send an equivalent Amazon gift certificate if you’re able to use it where you are.

Personally, I read and reviewed These Happy Golden Years, covering her first teaching experiences and courtship with Almanzo, and The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook, which includes recipes from the scrapbook cookbook she assembled as an adult as well as photos of her Rocky Ridge home and interesting facts about her life. I also celebrated her 150th birthday with fun facts, quotes, and links related to her as well as Apple Upside Down Cake made from her cookbook

Thanks for participating! I hope you enjoyed your time “on the prairie” this month. It always leaves me with renewed admiration for our forebears and renewed thankfulness that I live in the times I do.

Update: The drawing is completed: the winner is Laura! Congratulations!



Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder!


Today marks the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder, famed write of the Little House on the Prairie books. In honor of her birthday, I made an Apple Upside-Down Cake from The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook, compiled from a scrapbook of her recipes (I’ll have more to say about the book in a later post). I actually made it on her birthday eve so I could have the photos ready for today. 🙂

A few of the apples stuck to the pan, but not as many as I feared!


It made a one-layer 8-inch square cake, which I liked because with just the three of us, we don’t need a big cake. I had all of the ingredients on hand, which helped, too. It probably won’t replace this cake as a favorite apple cake, but it was good, especially warm with a bit of ice cream.


I was going to share some fun facts about Laura in honor of her birthday, but then discovered I did that last year! But I’ll repost a few of them and add a few more:

  • She was born on February 7, 1867 and died February 10, 1957 (that’s why we hold the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge in February). Almanzo was born in February as well (the 13th), 10 years before Laura. According to the cookbook mentioned above, his favorite meal was Swiss Steak and he sometimes got it on his birthday.
  • She didn’t start writing the Little House books until she was in her 60s.
  • She had originally written one book called Pioneer Girl, but was advised to expand and edit it. This manuscript published for the first time a couple of years ago.
  • Pioneer Girl is factual, but the Little House books, though heavily based on Laura’s family, are fictional and arranged a little differently than real life, so there are some differences. For instance, Jack the dog’s death scene was totally fiction. Pa sold him.
  • Nellie Oleson was based on a composite of three different girls in Laura’s life.
  • Laura couldn’t spell very well — odd since she was a teacher and even wrote of competing well in spelling bees. It may be that in the original draft of Pioneer Girl, which was handwritten for her daughter, she was more concerned about getting it down that concentrating on spelling.
  • Before Laura wrote her books, she wrote a column for the Missouri Ruralist: most, if not all, of those columns have been compiled into a book called Little House in the Ozarks (liked to my review.) There are over 140 articles or columns arranged by topic, and the topics range from WWI, women’s progress, and “the greatness and goodness of God,” but most are just observations drawn from everyday life.
  • There was a Japanese series based on Laura’s novels called Laura, The Prairie Girl.
  • Both Laura and Almanzo were fairly short. She was 4’11” and he was 5’4″. They had the kitchen in the last house built for their height.
  • When asked why she didn’t write more books, one time she replied that the money she received from them cost her more in taxes. “She never found taxes on those who had labored their way to prosperity to be an incentive for even more labor” (Stephen W. Hines, I Remember Laura, p. 97). But another time she said that if she wrote more, she’d have to get into some of the sad times of her life (p. 122).
  • According to the cookbook, she used a wood cookstove most of the time, even after having an electric one installed just for quick things. Some of the recipes had to be configured for modern day regulated ovens.

Some of my favorite quotes of Laura’s from her columns in Little House in the Ozarks:

  • “Let’s be cheerful! We have no more right to steal the brightness out of the day for our own family than we have to steal the purse of a stranger. Let us be as careful that our homes are furnished with pleasant and happy thoughts as we are that the rugs are the right color and texture and the furniture comfortable and beautiful” (p. 37).
  • “It is a good idea sometimes to think of the importance and dignity of our everyday duties. It keeps them from being so tiresome; besides, others are apt to take us at our own valuation” (p. 130).
  • “Just as a little thread of gold, running through a fabric, brightens the whole garment, so women’s work at home, while only the doing of little things, is like the golden gleam of sunlight that runs through and brightens all the fabric of civilization” (p. 207).
  • “Here and there one sees a criticism of Christianity because of the things that have happened [during WWI]…. ‘Christianity has not prevented these things, therefore it is a failure’ some say. But this is a calling of things by the wrong names. It is rather the lack of Christianity that has brought us where we are. Not a lack of churches or religious forms but of the real thing in our hearts” (p. 265).

Favorite moments in Laura’s books:

  • When Mr. Edwards endured an arduous journey to bring Christmas presents to the Ingalls girls.
  • When Pa played his fiddle in the evenings.
  • When they thought they lost their dog, Jack, and he found them.
  • The church Christmas party where Laura gets her fur cape and muff.
  • The girls bringing in all the firewood during a storm when Ma and Pa are away after they heard about a house of children who froze.
  • When Laura admires the kitchen Almanzo built for her in the first home together.

Fun links about Laura:


Book Review: The Story Girl

story-girlI read The Story Girl by L. M. Montgomery for Carrie’s  L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge.

It opens with two brothers, Beverly and Felix King, going to stay with their father’s extended family while he travels to Rio de Janeiro on business. The King family lives on the old family homestead, and Bev and Felix look forward to exploring all the old haunts their father has told them of. The branch of the family they are staying with includes a brother and two sisters, Dan, Felicity, and Cecily King. Another cousin, Sara Stanley, lives with a nearby aunt and uncle. Neighbor Sara Ray and hired boy Peter Craig round out the group.

Sara Stanley is called the Story Girl partly because there is another Sara in the group, but mainly because she has a unique voice and ability to enthrall children and adults alike with the way she tells stories. The book tells of the children’s interactions, adventures, and misadventures, and along the way Sara entertains them with stories. Some are family tales, some are local lore, others are fairy tales or classical stories.

The children range in age from 11 to 14, yet seem younger than children of the same age by today’s standards.

I wondered if one reason Montgomery told stories about children was because she could explore issues through a child’s innocence, lack of experience, and questioning that she might not feel quite the freedom to with adults. For instance, in one chapter the cat is unwell, and some of the children think one of the women in the village put a spell on him when he yelped because she accidentally stepped on his tail. Some don’t think so, but they agree that they need to make an appeal for her to remove the spell and explain that he didn’t mean any harm. They also get some medicine down him, and pray. When he gets well, they argue about whether it was the spell removal, the medicine, or the prayers that cured him. “Thus faith, superstition, and incredulity strove together amongst us, as in all history.” In another, one of them finds an article in the newspaper reporting that someone in the USA predicted the date for Judgment Day. They argue over whether it’s true and what to do about it and respond in a variety of ways.

One story that disturbed me a bit was a legend about how the Milky Way came to be (in the chapter “A Daughter of Eve”). As the story has it, two archangels fell in love, which God did not allow among angels, so He separated them to far sides of the universe. But they loved each other so much, they each began building a bridge of light toward the other, not realizing the other was doing the same. When they met, some of the other angels reported it to God and asked him to punish them. He said, “‘Nay, whatsoever in my universe true love hath builded not even the Almighty can destroy. The bridge must stand forever.” It’s not the fanciful story that bothers me so much as the thought planted in reader’s heads that there is something God is powerless against. In another part of the book, the children wonder what God looks like until finally one of them finds someone who says he has a picture of God in a book at home, and they buy the picture from him for 50 cents. When they see it, they’re sad and dismayed that He looks old and “cross” and intimidating rather than friendly and inviting. They all process this in different ways until they finally ask the minister, who assures them that, though no one really knows what God looks like, He assuredly does not look like this. He tells them to bury the picture. They’re relieved, yet,

We had lost something of infinitely more value than fifty cents, although we did not realize it just then. The minister’s words had removed from our minds the bitter belief that God was like that picture; but on something deeper and more enduring than mind an impression had been made that was never to be removed. The mischief was done. From that day to this the thought or the mention of God brings up before us involuntarily the vision of a stern, angry, old man. Such was the price we were to pay for the indulgence of a curiosity which each of us, deep in our hearts, had, like Sara Ray, felt ought not to be gratified.

To me, planting that thought from the other story that God is powerless against true love does the same thing. Even though we know that’s not true, that thought keeps coming to mind.

But most of the stories and happenings are much lighter. There is a lot of charm in the stories, and I particularly like LMM’s characterizations and how the children play off each other. But there is a bit of a sharp edge, too, when the children are mean to each other, like the constant references to Felix being fat or Dan’s larger than usual mouth. Some of LMM’s writing is lovely; some seems to me to overstep into purple prose. But one of the main points of the story that I love is:

There is such a place as fairyland – but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of the common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.

And I could identify with this, said of the Story Girl:

She loved expressive words, and treasured them as some girls might have treasured jewels. To her, they were as lustrous pearls, threaded on the crimson cord of a vivid fancy. When she met with a new one she uttered it over and over to herself in solitude, weighing it, caressing it, infusing it with the radiance of her voice, making it her own in all its possibilities for ever.

If I still had children of an age to read to, I am not entirely sure I would read this to them: if I did, it would be with some editing and discussions along the way.

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was that the series “The Road to Avonlea” is based on it and its sequel, The Golden Road. I don’t remember seeing any of the series when it was originally on except for possibly a part of one episode at someone’s house. I had planned to see one before writing this review, but it’s not on Hulu or Netflix. There are excerpts on YouTube, but only 4 or 5 minutes each, with links back to Sullivan Entertainment, where they offer to sell them to you. DVDs are still available, but I didn’t want to buy them – I just wanted to see the first episode. Unfortunately our library system only has one Christmas episode from the series. The part I saw on YouTube had the same feel and look as Sullivan’s production of “Anne of Green Gables” with Megan Follows, but apparently they left out some of the characters and changed various details.

I listened to a free audiobook version on Librivox, which was read by volunteers across the country. Unfortunately, it sounds like it was read by volunteers. The sound quality wasn’t good on all of them: some had static or other noises. Some of the readers did better than others. But…it was free, Audible didn’t have it, and I had more room in my listening time than I did in my reading time, so I pressed on with it. I did get a copy of the book from the library to go over certain parts, and I just discovered a short while ago that the text is online here. I do want to read The Golden Road some time to see what happens with the children.

So – mixed emotions. A lot of good, a handful of qualities I in particular didn’t like. For more enthusiastic reviews, see Hope‘s or Carrie‘s.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)