Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie inspired countless children to dream of hopping on a wagon train or churning some butter. But as it turns out, frontier life wasn't quite so idyllic for Wilder.
Her memoir, Pioneer Girl, which she wrote in the mid-1920s, will be released in the fall, and it casts her life on the Midwest plains in a bleaker light. Touching upon domestic abuse, an ill-fated love triangle and the overarching reality of living in an isolated territory with few provisions, Pioneer Girl was actually Wilder's first manuscript, and it's definitely for adults. But when no one would publish the gritty autobiography, Wilder transformed it into the children's series we know today.
Published with annotations by South Dakota State Historical Society Press, Pioneer Girl is sure to be an illuminating look into the life of one of America's most beloved children's authors.
Today is the birthday of the American writer Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose Little House on the Prairie saga captured the imagination of generations of children (and at least one TV producer).
Despite being a somewhat fictionalized version of her own life, the novels read like gospel truth to her fans—our reviewer Amy Scribner probably wasn't the only one to be shocked when she realized what section they were shelved in: "Did that mean that Laura Ingalls Wilder—whose braids and spunk I spent the better part of my childhood emulating—hadn’t really almost starved during the long winter, or fought with nasty Nellie Oleson, or fallen in love with Almanzo?"
That quote comes from our review of Wendy McClure's The Wilder Life, which chronicles McLure's obsessive quest to visit the settings of the series and the trappings of Laura's world—dirt houses, horehound candy, pig's bladder balloons and all. It was our nonfiction top pick back in April 2011—and the subject of a BookPage podcast. If you've read the book, you can listen to our discussion here! (Or right-click to download to your computer.) If you haven't read the book yet, you can find an excerpt here.
If you could follow in the footsteps of one author, who would it be?