What’s New? Re-Reading and Re-Watching Little House on the Prairie.

Just a few pieces of my Laura-related swag.  The book was made by a little girl I met at Almanzo's birthplace, The Wilder Farm in Burke, New York.  She illustrated several scenes from the first 3 books in the series.  Meanwhile, many people who attend my first-person educational history programs, which feature a "visit" with an adult Laura circa 1895, ask questions that are clearly related to television episodes and have nothing to do with the books...

Just a few pieces of my Laura-related swag. The book was made by a little girl I met at Almanzo’s birthplace, The Wilder Farm in Burke, New York. She illustrated several scenes from the first 3 books in the series. Meanwhile, many people who attend my first-person educational history programs, which feature a “visit” with an adult Laura circa 1895, ask questions that are clearly related to television episodes and have nothing to do with the books…

I found this blog entry today:  Stories I’m Reading: Little House On the Prairie  and it got me to thinking just how readily every type of media can lead readers and viewers to hold some false impressions about everything from history in general to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s specific experiences. The blogger, Kim, like many of us Laurati, first knew LIW because of the TV show. Now an adult, she is reading Laura’s classic series for the first time and was shocked to find the Ingalls didn’t spend all of Laura’s childhood in Walnut Grove! On the other hand, many readers fell in love with Laura’s books first and came to the show later, if at all. I am always curious what people think of the many differences…or do they notice?

When I was very, very small, my mother let me stay up late to watch Little House on the Prairie because it was one of the few shows which featured a lot of female characters and was not too “grown-up” for a little girl.  I learned to read when I was given a copy of LHOP, and, holding my finger under each word of the sentence, one-at-a-time, my father helped me parse the syllables into an intelligible story.  He explained the foreign concepts of hunting or making cheese.  He drew pictures to make sense of the parts I couldn’t imagine, like building a door for a log house in Kansas. I knew the books and the show were very different, and my parents often pointed out anachronisms in dialogue or situations of the 70s Hollywood production.  But, they recognized the merits of the attempt at making a period of history and a former way of life accessible to a modern audience.  Sometimes the show succeeded, other times…well, let’s just say it didn’t always feel quite real.  But, it inspired me to dress up, play at living in another time and place, and, most importantly, LEARN about that other time, and place, and the other parts of life that the show–and even The Books–did not.  And, for that, I am grateful.

Me@RRFarmJuly2011.FrontPorch.FULLimage.DSCN2673

My visit to Rocky Ridge Farm, July 2011. Seeing Bessie and Manly’s final home, so lovingly created by their own labor over more than a decade’s time and from materials culled from their own land, brought a new level of meaning to my lifelong attachment to the Ingalls and Wilder families.

What has your Laura Ingalls Wilder experience been?  What caught your attention, and what do you wonder about?

Tell me your story…

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4 comments on “What’s New? Re-Reading and Re-Watching Little House on the Prairie.

  1. Laura says:

    I discovered the books before the tv show started airing and I had trouble accepting the differences (even wrote a letter to Ed Friendly!). But I have been able to separate the two (although I still have trouble watching some episodes) and am thankful for the Laurati that were born of discovering LIW and the books from the show. I suppose I will always be a book purist though.

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    • Melanie S. says:

      I LOVE that you wrote to Ed Friendly! I wish I’d thought of that back then, but I was rather small and didn’t really put together how completely far-fetched the show ultimately became until several years after it was no longer in production and relegated to re-runs. Did you get any response to your letter?

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  2. I first began reading the books in 2nd grade. We moved and my parents had to send a note into the new school’s library stating I was allowed to take out the Little House books and read them because they were on a shelf for older kids!
    I loved the books and with the help of my 5th grade teacher, began to look further into Laura’s life. I collected postcard photos and have the publication with all the Ingalls family photos in it. I read books by Garth Williams William Anderson from the library. Aging didn’t lessen my interest and I have books that are collections of Laura’s articles for the local papers. Next summer I hope to visit some of the sites of the Little Houses.

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    • Melanie S. says:

      I just saw your reply again, Mayflower Chick, and wondering if you are indeed visiting some of the Little House sites this year? I will be roaming around LauraLand again in July and possibly other times during 2014. Let me know if you’d like any tips on what to see/do and where to eat/stay, etc.

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