May 11, 2018

List of Little House Books

What order should you read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Many people choose to read them in the order they were published. However, Farmer Boy can be read at any time in the series because it focuses only on a year in the life of Almanzo Wilder, the boy.

Please note: If you are reading this blog post in an email, you may not be able to see all images or click on links unless you go to the blog by clicking the title of today's blog post. 

This is the list of Little House books by publishing date.

Little House in the Big Woods (1932)
Farmer Boy (1933)
Little House on the Prairie (1935)
On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937)
By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939)
The Long Winter (1940)
Little Town on the Prairie (1941)
These Happy Golden Years (1943)
The First Four Years* (1971)

* These Happy Golden Years was the final book in the Little House series. When Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote The First Four Years, from letters we know she wrote it for adults instead of the Little House series. However she never submitted it to her publisher or even revised the book. It was not published until after her and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane's deaths.

When Laura Ingalls Wilder first dreamed of publishing her story, she wrote her memoir for adults. She was not able to find a publisher for that story, so she rewrote portions and sold Little House in the Big Woods as a children's book. Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography was finally published by South Dakota Historical Society Press in 2014 and titled Pioneer Girl (linked to my review). The annotations by editor Pamela Hill Smith make this a bit of a encyclopedia--perfect for adult fans of the Little House books who want to understand more of the story.

Happy trails!
 ~ Annette Whipple
 Annette is a nonfiction children's author. Learn more about her books and presentations at

April 17, 2018

Pioneer and Little House Word Searches

With an upcoming pioneer life program, I wanted to share something for the participants to use that my Little House Companion readers might also appreciate. Here are three pioneer and Little House word searches for you.

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The words in these pioneer and Little House word searches go across, down, and diagonally. No words are backwards! I wanted these to be easy enough for elementary students to complete without too much frustration. 
A big thanks goes out to those of you who helped me come up with pioneer and Little House words to include in the word searches! I asked for help on the Little House Companion Facebook page and was so excited about the responses. The word search creator limits how many words can be used so I had to be quite selective. But as you can see, I still made two Pioneer Living word searches. I couldn't stop at just one.

These word searches are for personal and educational use, including classroom use. The answer keys are included.

Enjoy the pioneer and Little House word searches! If you

~ Annette Whipple Annette is a nonfiction children's author. Learn more about her books and presentations at

April 9, 2018

How Did Mary Ingalls Go Blind?

Please note: If you are reading this blog post in an email, you may not be able to see all images or click on links unless you go to the blog by clicking the title of today's blog post. 

In the opening paragraphs of By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder told of the scarlet fever that Ma, Mary, Carrie, and baby Grace all experienced. Though the doctor bill would be a difficult to pay, the larger concern was that the scarlet fever had left her sister, Mary Ingalls, blind.
In recent years, Dr. Beth A. Tarini devoted a lot of time to understanding what actually caused Mary's blindness. Scarlet fever can cause the loss of sight, but it's only temporary.

Dr. Tarini and a team studied the evidence, including the Pioneer Girl autobiography (linked to my review), letters, and even newspaper accounts about Mary. Of course, she also consulted medical books.

Eventually they came to the conclusion that Mary Ingalls's blindness was caused by meningoencephalitis, a brain infection and not scarlet fever. Dr. Tarini reported her findings in a pediatric journal. National media ran articles about how Mary Ingalls lost her sight.

Why did Laura Ingalls Wilder say scarlet fever caused Mary's blindness? We can't know for sure, but scarlet fever was a feared disease. Books like Louisa May Alcott's Little Women made readers aware of the deadly disease. It's possible Wilder or an editor chose scarlet fever because it was familiar. We have to remember, though the Little House books are autobiographical, they are also considered historical fiction. Wilder based the books on her childhood, but not every word in the books is true.

Laura Ingalls Wilder likely became a masterful observer and story teller as she became "eyes" for Mary. Later, Mary thrived at the Iowa College for the Blind in Vinton, Iowa. She enrolled there in November of 1881. The Dakota Territory paid for her schooling until she graduated on June 12, 1889.

The Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind has more information on Mary.

Read additional articles discussing how Mary Ingalls lost her sight at CNN, CBS, New York Times, and Ann Arbor News. (You likely saw some of those if you follow Little House Companion on Facebook.)

 ~ Annette Whipple

 Annette is a nonfiction children's author. Learn more about her books and presentations at

February 7, 2018

Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder

It's been 151 years since America's beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder was born. I'm grateful we still celebrate her books and birth. Happy birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder!
Laura's books engage readers with part of America's past. Children and adults alike appreciate the way she fictionalized her life to make readers love the Ingalls family-despite their flaws.
Learn more about illustrator, Renee Graef
Read more about Laura Ingalls Wilder life here.

Want to celebrate? You'll want to read these posts about planning a Laura Ingalls Wilder celebration.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, age twenty-seven.
Photo courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society. 
Used with permission.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Party Planning
Laura Ingalls Wilder Themes
Laura Ingalls Wilder Activities
Laura Ingalls Wilder Food

~ Annette Whipple

January 4, 2018

Little House Wooden Dolls

I love handmade gifts. My sister blessed me with this set of Little House wooden dolls as a Christmas gift. I just love seeing my youngest daughter use the Ingalls dolls to act out the Little House books as we read aloud.
I love the colors and details. Check out Pa's fiddle!
The soft designs even remind me of Garth Williams's illustrations.

A few years ago I made my sister Star Wars peg people. (You can see them at that link. It's my other blog.) She adored them. I'm so glad she made these for me. 

Now, don't you want a set of Little House wooden dolls? I love  the heart she put into these. 

~ Annette Whipple
This post contains affiliate links.  If you make any purchases through the Amazon links, I will earn a tiny percentage at no additional cost to you.  Thanks for your support.

December 12, 2017

Christmas Popcorn Balls

Do you remember in These Happy Golden Years when Almanzo had to go away before Christmas? Laura still busied herself as the family prepared for the celebration. It wasn't long before Carrie's extra bag of candy was needed for a special guest. 
Laura popped popcorn. Ma boiled molasses and drizzled it over the popcorn, forming balls in her hands. 

This Christmas maybe you'll make popcorn balls with your loved ones! My daughter still remembers the sweet popcorn balls we made a few years ago. I think we'll make some, too. 

If you want to make your own popcorn balls, my popcorn ball recipe is fairly simple. The hardest part is keeping your hands buttered or sprayed so the sweet kernels don't stick to your hands.

Have a wonderful holiday season! Merry Christmas!

~ Annette Whipple
This post contains affiliate links.  If you make any purchases through the Amazon links, I will earn a tiny percentage at no additional cost to you.  Thanks for your support.

November 10, 2017

Author Interview and Giveaway

Earlier this week I reviewed Shelley Tougas's book Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life (linked to review). I enjoyed the book so much I reached out to Shelley and asked her a few questions about her newest book. She has generously even offered a giveaway of the book!
Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life was such an enjoyable book to read that I reached out to Shelley to ask a few questions about her just-released book. I'll get right to the interview since you've already read my review of the book (right?). Be sure to read to the end because Shelley Tougas has generously offered a giveaway of the book!
Shelley Tougas

Little House Companion: When did you become a fan of the Little House books?
Shelley Tougas: I started reading them in elementary school. I remember asking for the series as a Christmas present in third grade. I watched the TV show, too, but I’m not sure which came first for me—the show? The books? I think it was the books, because during every TV episode, I was sure to inform my mother whether the plot had actually happened in the books and whether characters were real or made up by the show. I didn’t know until I was an adult that the books themselves were novels based on her real life. Laura herself invented characters. Nellie Oleson didn’t exist in real life. She was created to represent a couple of “mean” girls Laura knew.

LHC: I love that even as a child you noticed how different the Little House on the Prairie television show and the Little House books are. What inspired Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life? 
ST: When I was a kid, I wrote pioneer stories. Clearly Laura has been influencing me for a long time. Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life is contemporary, so I obviously ruled out historical fiction. I decided I’d rather write a parallel story.

LHC: The parallel story certainly works! When Charlotte’s mom uproots the family to live in Walnut Grove, Charlotte is more than a bit frustrated, which is obvious from the title. Was it difficult or fun to write from Charlotte’s frustrated perspective?
ST: It was fun to develop the contrast between Charlotte’s frustration and her mom and sister’s sunny outlook. Charlotte’s mother, Martha, is very much like Pa – footloose, upbeat, always looking for the next lottery ticket. Like Pa, she races out of town in the middle of the night to avoid a debt collector. Charles Ingalls actually did that when they lived in Iowa. Laura rarely reveals anyone questioning Pa’s decisions, some of which were definitely questionable. Occasionally Ma will say something like, “Oh, Charles,” and you read between the lines as an adult. For example, they could’ve stayed in Wisconsin where they were surrounded by supportive family members and had a functioning farm. They had an attic full of food and plenty of game for hunting. But Pa had to move. They returned to the farm after a miserable experience on the prairie and then left it a second time. (The order of the books doesn’t reflect reality. Laura was two during “Little House on the Prairie, and she wrote it based on memories of family members.) I wanted Charlotte to be the cynical voice that was missing in the series, the voice of adult readers. What were they thinking?

LHC: Please tell us how your visits to Walnut Grove, Minnesota helped you write this book. Were any of your characters based on real people?
ST: I lived in Mankato, Minnesota for 20 years, so I'd been to Walnut Grove a few times. It's a small town - about 800 people - and it's very Laura-centric. There's not just a single museum. It's a complex. There's a reconstructed sod house, an old school house, an old church and more. Plus there's the dugout site near the town. In the summer the community puts on a pageant with a musical production about the town's history and the Ingalls family. I wondered, what's it like to grow up in a town like that? A small town with such an interesting identity? That question inspired the book. At one point, I'd reached out to one of the pageant organizers in Walnut Grove to observe auditions for the show and meet with some of the kids who were involved. I wanted to spend a lot more time in town since I'd only been there a few times. But I changed my mind. I’d been a journalist, and I was afraid I’d fall into journalism mode. My story was fiction. I didn’t want to be stifled by reality. (How could I create a mean school principal if I met the real principal and thought he - or she - was fabulous?) My memories, with some help from Internet research, were sufficient. I actually hit a deer while driving home from the pageant and nearly totaled my car. My daughter and her friend were recording themselves on an iPad when it happened – we got to listen to the crash (and my swearing) over and over. Trust me, it was memorable.

LHC: What made you choose Walnut Grove for the setting instead of one of the other Ingalls homesites?

ST: That’s a great question, because there are so many sites, and I’ve been to all of them. Walnut Grove really stands out for me. First, it’s truly a diverse town despite whatever perceptions you might have of southwest Minnesota. The part in the book about the population being a quarter Hmong is factual. Second, the museum complex and the annual festival are so impressive. I certainly don’t mean to pit sites against each other, because they all have wonderful things to offer, but Walnut Grove is close to my home in Mankato, so I feel a kinship with it. Since I lived near there, I literally laugh when I see the TV show, which was shot somewhere in California and looks nothing like the Minnesota prairie. I also love that the owners of the Ingalls’ dugout site allow members of the public to look at it, even though it’s private land. That’s incredibly generous. Finally, Laura never named Walnut Grove as the town in “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” She literally never wrote the words in the book. Call my novel a karmic clarification!
Shelley and her husband, Michael, at Laura's home in Missouri.
LHC: As a child, I remember wondering where Plum Creek was. I'm thankful to know now! Your story-telling skills are amazing. You included history beyond Laura Ingalls Wilder, yet the book doesn’t feel like a lesson. How did you decide what parts of history to mention in this book?
ST: I didn’t want to romanticize pioneer life or westward expansion. It was a hard life. As hard as Laura makes it sound in her novels, it was much, much harder in reality. Her actual memoir (“Pioneer Girl”) is often downright bleak with glimpses of domestic abuse, depression, alcoholism, which were among the issues faced by isolated settlers. I wanted to explore the consequences of westward expansion, too, from the exploitation of Chinese laborers in building the railroad to the removal of Native Americans from their land to environmental destruction via the Dust Bowl. It was really challenging to weave all that into a contemporary novel, especially because there’s so much content, and not have it feel like I was hitting readers over the head with a hammer. I asked other writers to read it and guide me in that regard. Ultimately, my editor had the final say, and I trust her judgment. When she thought I nailed it, I was comfortable.

LHC: Where can fans connect with you?
ST: I’m at online
And Twitter, too: @ShelleyTougas

LHC: What else would you like to tell Little House Companion readers?
ST: I’m equally fascinated by Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter. If you like Laura’s story, keep reading. Rose defied gender roles of the time, traveling the world and working as a real estate agent and a writer. In fact, for a period of time she was one of the country’s highest-paid writers. She developed some strong political views as she aged. She essentially quit writing/working to protest Social Security and Roosevelt’s New Deal. She simply wasn’t going to participate in it. Historians consider her among the “mothers” of today’s Libertarian Party.

Shelley, thanks so much for sharing some of the back story to Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life! That was such fun! And thank you for providing a book for one lucky Little House Companion reader!

Please enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter gadget. (You'll need to be at the Little House Companion blog to do so.) This is limited to US residents. You may enter through Thursday, November 16. (It ends at midnight on November 17.)

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