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Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography (Little House) (1992)

by William Anderson

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A biography of the writer whose pioneer life on the American prairie became the basis for her "Little House" books.

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I first read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder in grade school. Growing up in a small Kansas town, I loved reading stories of the prairie and pioneers. I remember imagining what it must have been like to travel in the back of a covered wagon, and to be a homesteading pioneer family. Many, many children (and adults) have happily had those same thoughts, ever since the first Little House book was published in the 1930's.

I remember several family vacations where we drove hours out of our way to visit Ingalls and Wilder family homestead sites and museums. It was always worth the drive. We would all gather around the displays and point out possessions we remembered from the books. Seeing photographs of the family was amazing as well. It made the pioneer era seem so close...and yet so far away. A time gone by, but remembered fondly.

I still love her books. Her writing is simple, but strong, conveying the strength, determination and love her family had for each other and the land.

William Anderson's biography of Laura shares details about her family, each of their home sites, facts about their friends and neighbors, and the challenges they faced. At 232 pages, the book is a quick read, telling the history of the Ingalls and Wilder families in a charming, informative way. There are several black and white photographs and illustrations as well. I enjoyed learning about Laura's later years writing magazine articles, newspaper columns and her books. That was a portion of her story that was new to me.

I enjoyed learning more about her childhood and young adult life as well. I had forgotten how many times Laura's family moved due to financial hardship, natural disaster or other reasons. It must have been hard to pick up and leave everything behind so many times. Reading about Laura's life definitely brought back all the warm feelings I have for this family. I spent many hours as a child reading their story, and it was nice to revisit old memories.

This book would be a great read for anyone who enjoys the Little House books, young and old. It's a quick read, but very well written and informative.

William Anderson has written several books about Laura Ingalls Wilder including The Little House Sampler and The Little House Guidebook. For more information on the author and his books, check out his website: ( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography by William Anderson was my favorite book that I read this month during the LIW challenge. This biography covered Laura’s life from her pioneering days to her golden years. It was written for readers of any age and a pleasure to read!

I most enjoyed reading about was Laura’s life after she and Almanzo and Rose settled in Mansfield Missouri at their Rocky Ridge Farm. It was so interesting to follow their work and development of their Rocky Ridge Farm, Laura’s progression from writing magazine/newspaper articles to her books, as well as her strong support to helping the farming wife.

Not having read much other than the Little House on the Prairie books, I was surprised to read that Laura didn’t really start her writing career till she was in her sixties. Laura credited her own success in writing to help and encouragement from Rose, her daughter who also was a well known writer.

After focusing this month on reading about pioneering and our country’s westward expansion, I sit in awe of those who had the courage, strength and tenacity to walk that path. We owe a great debt to those who forged west in search of new lands, open spaces and a new way of life.

At a time when our faith in our country and government is being tested along with our current challenging economic times, it has been renewing for me to contemplate what our ancestors accomplished, the challenges they faced and overcame and the life they created for themselves.

I walk away from this reading challenge with hope, determination and encouragement. I am not sure I would have made a good pioneer but I am grateful for those who took up the challenge and forged a new way of life. They did not given in to defeat but kept moving on, trying new ways and most of all, never giving up on their dreams. ( )
  mrsrenee | Apr 10, 2013 |
"Biography" comes from two Greek words, βίος, earthly life, the way of the world; and γράφω, to write. So a proper biography should tell of a person's true and genuine life.

Even if that life is not the story the subject of the biography told.

Let's be clear: The "Little House" books are fiction. They are very loosely based on the life of Laura Ingalls, later known as "Bessie" Wilder, but Wilder had no qualms about rewriting her past. Her goal in writing Little House in the Big Woods does not appear to have been to write a biography; she seems to have been trying to describe how pioneers lived. To accomplish this, she made herself several years older than she actually was. What's more, her writer daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, heavily modified her mother's work, so that it probably drifted even farther from the truth. Where, for instance, is the dead brother? How did Pa avoid fighting in the Civil War? And what about the missing stops on the Ingalls trail of tears?

This "biography" is, frankly, far too much "Little House" and far too little reality. It is not a proper biography; it is much too willing to accept Laura's writings even when they conflict with the known facts. Admittedly the facts are hard to come by -- the Ingalls family left no diaries, and they lived near the frontier; we have only a few census records and such from their early years. But if one wishes to read Laura's version of history -- well, read the "Little House" books, not this. If you want a true biography, the best I know of is John E. Miller's Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend. Pamela Smith Hill's Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life is more about the composition of the books, but it too is useful. If you then wish to read Anderson's piece of hagiographic literature, fine -- but be aware that it is just that: the secular equivalent of a saint's life, not a biography. ( )
  waltzmn | Mar 2, 2012 |
A great little biography about an Author that became an American Icon. It tells the well know story of Laura & Charles and their travels throught the western land during the 1800's. If you only know Laura's story throuhg the TV series, you really don't know it at all. Much of what we saw came from writer's imagination's. Actually her true account of her life is much more fascinating. Especially her 64 year marriage to Almanzo Wilder. This book pays homage to them and Laura;s exciting life. ( )
  silversurfer | Aug 8, 2011 |
This biography of one of the most beloved pioneer writers of our country is unique in that it offers snippets of the people in Laura's life growing up than most other accounts. Also, the photos were good and give the reader a great picture of the era.
Classroom Use: Write a short story about the things you have and your way of life just as Laura did with her books. What do you think Laura would have been like if she had grown up with you and all the technology we have today? ( )
  Jdonldsn | Dec 9, 2010 |
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When Laura Ingalls was born in the woods in the state of Wisconsin, the land there was still raw and wild.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This work is Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Biography. Please do not combine it with Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneer and Author, or Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Iowa Story, each of which is a separate work with different contents.
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A biography of the writer whose pioneer life on the American prairie became the basis for her "Little House" books.

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