by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
Minnesotans love Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was a Minnesotan for part of her childhood, so “On the Banks of Plum Creek” is set here. Personally, I love the window into history that Laura’s well-written children’s books give us.
Pioneerland libraries are bringing in a Laura Ingalls Wilder interactive history performer between late October and Thanksgiving. Historian Melanie Stringer acts the part of Laura in the mid-1890s, when she, Almanzo, and their young daughter Rose had settled on Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri. Stringer has studied Wilder extensively, and she travels the country presenting Laura as she might have been after she had lived through the events in her books but before she became a writer.
The programs in Meeker County are happening in early November. Our first “Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder” program will be in the community room behind the Grove City Library on Friday, November 2, at 6:00 p.m. The event at the Litchfield Library will be on Wednesday, November 7, at 6:00 p.m. Cosmos Library hosts its program in the community room next to the library on Thursday, November 8, at 10:00 a.m. And Dassel Library’s program will be held upstairs at the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 10. All are free to attend, funded with assistance from the Clean Water, Land, & Legacy Amendment, and there’s no need to sign up.
So what can you check out at the library if you want to learn more about Laura before or after the events? We have many things to choose from. We have the Little House series itself in the children’s department, including some in audiobook format – good for a family road trip.
The library has the recent adult novel “Caroline: Little House, Revisited” by Sarah Miller. This popular book imagines the story of the Ingalls family from the perspective of Ma Ingalls. If you’ve ever thought about what Caroline must have gone through every time Charles decided to move the family, this may be a book you’d enjoy.
The recent non-fiction book for adults, “The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired the Little House Books,” takes a nature-focused approach to understanding the series. Author Marta McDowell deeply researched the locations featured in the novels, and she details the landscapes, wild plants, and gardens from each place. The book is full of illustrations and maps.
Caroline Fraser won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for her book “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder.” This comprehensive historical biography of Wilder is based on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records. Fraser demonstrates that Wilder’s life was even more difficult than her books show, despite the hardships they describe.
I just finished reading “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography,” the bestselling book that the South Dakota Historical Society published in 2014. It was Wilder’s first crack at writing down her life story, and it demonstrated to me how good she was as a novelist. As she revised the stories multiple times, Wilder fictionalized some characters and events, and she made her word choices more vivid, which made the novels suspenseful and moving. This scholarly book also makes it clear that Laura wrote the books and had good instincts for them, and her daughter Rose did not.
If you are enthusiastic about Laura like I am, or if you just want to learn more about the realities of pioneer history, come to one of our programs. If none of the dates in our county work for you, check out the whole Pioneerland schedule on our website, because Melanie will be performing in Hutchinson, Atwater, and in many other communities in the region.