Whenever I hear the name Laura Ingalls Wilder, or even just think it, a warm homey feeling comes over me like being covered in my grandma's quilt. Today I'm getting that feeling a lot, since February 7th is Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday (born in 1867) and she is very much on my mind.
It's been said that Wilder wrote the Little House books to preserve the stories of her childhood for today's children, to help them to understand how much America had changed during her lifetime. Thanks to her foresight, generations of children have vicariously lived the pioneer experience and gained an appreciation of the difficulties the early homesteaders faced in a way that no history book or adult recitation of "how good we have it" could ever accomplish.
The Little House books have also given readers an opportunity to bond across generations, when the books are lovingly passed along from a parent or grandparent who fell in love with the series during their own childhood. Personally, I read my mother's set--which didn't include The First Four Years, discovered many years after Wilder's death--with their odd square shape and cloth covers, purchased during a time when the author was still alive (Wilder died in 1957 at the age of 90). I have warm memories of reading those old books, pretending I was living in the Ingalls cabin alongside Laura and Mary, and I can't wait to share the series with my own daughter. Reading even a fraction of the hundreds of customer reviews tells me that the Little House bond is shared by many, and one of the beautiful things about these books is that they are loved by boys and girls alike.
Wilder was 65 in 1932 when her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, was published and her books have remained in print ever since. In 1954 the American Library Association founded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the first one given to its namesake, and now awarded every two years to "an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children." The current winner is Tomie dePaola, who received the award in 2011. Besides the children's book award, there are museums, elementary schools (including one in my hometown), countless books, blogs, and websites--even a crater on Venus named for Laura Ingalls Wilder. And then, of course, there was the wildly popular television show that brought Laura, most notably in the form of Melissa Gilbert, into the homes of millions every week (along with Nellie Olesen, the quintessential mean girl). It's quite a legacy.
Please join me in some Little House nostalgia, as I reminisce about maple syrup candy and falling asleep to the sound of fiddle playing--what are some of your favorite Little House moments? --Seira
The nine books in the Little House series: