THE WORLD OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER:
The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired The Little House Books
by Marta McDowell
ARC provided by Netgalley and Timber Press.
“It is the simple things of life that make living worthwhile, the sweet fundamental things such as love and duty, work and rest, and living close to nature.”
— Laura Ingalls Wilder
You want to make someone smile? Start talking about Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“Once upon a time.” Like many children’s stories, Laura Ingalls Wilder opened Little House in the Big Woods with this quiet invitation to readers to turn their thoughts back in time. Hers was a long story, rooted in her father’s and her husband’s, tales of family and farms and nature – a nature that was sometimes inviting and sometimes ferocious. It began in Wisconsin. (World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, pg 17)
Marta McDowell, a New York Times bestseller in her own right, commemorates Laura’s 150th birthday with this enchanting book filled with flowers, photographs and delightful illustrations of the places, people, flora, fauna and homes that filled Laura and Almanzo’s lives.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a childish work. The author has crawled beneath the covers of the Little House books and brought the physical world depicted in Laura’s books alive. No fairy tale here; just hard working pioneers accepting the challenge of working in harmony with nature.
Stand alongside Laura, first as a child, and later as a mother herself, as she gathers berries and nuts from the forest and fields; meticulously documenting what she has found for future reference. Sweat with her as she boils the berries for preserves in a room already sweltering from the summer heat. Hand her the canning jars and the melted paraffin to seal in the fruit and keep out the spoilers. Stand back as she continues with her daily chores – on to fixing a hearty meal for her exhausted husband.
Head out to the forest with Alamanzo and his axe as he clears land for a new home, fields for the crops and domestic animals. As the years progress, observe his willingness to experiment with crop rotations and research new agricultural equipment to expand and improve their livelihood.
Experience the heartbreak of leaving loved ones and good friends behind after calamity has destroyed your hard work. Step up and take a seat in the wagon as they head out; stoically starting over…again and again. Somewhere else. Sit in the buggy and bounce and jostle along wandering through towering prairie grass toward an unknown future.
With all the hard work necessary just to survive, it will surprise you to see how valuable education and literature was to both the Charles (Pa) Ingalls family and later with Laura and Almanzo. Where did they find the time in each day? Charles nurtured his children with stories about far away places. Laura has provided generations of children with pioneer pride, responsibility, unity of purpose, community spirit and a love for nature and the world. Her books are as popular as ever today.
Meet Laura’s daughter, Rose, named for the sweet smelling prairie flower that infused the air during the Wilder’s courtship. Learn how Rose, a bestselling author, helped her mother hone her own writing talents.
As each chapter was a diorama of a particular home site, I took my time reading the book. My favorite times were sitting on my screen porch overlooking my garden and I found that I shared Laura’s interest in the cycle of life progressing all around me. Laura and I watched birds hatch, flowers emerge from winter sleep, and note the arrival of summer’s sounds.
This dynamic work doesn’t end at Rocky Ridge Farm on the Wilder’s front porch where Almanzo and Laura enjoyed their waning years. It continues with several chapters that include a tour guide to the Ingalls and Wilder homesites today and a handy table listing all the flowers Laura mentioned in her books along with citations to each referenced. Bonus. Sources of heirloom seeds is provided for the inspired gardener.
Highly recommended reading. Here is the perfect gift for a nature loving friend or relative.