December 16, 2014

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder

If you follow Little House Companion on Facebook or have been reading the blog for a while, you likely already know that Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography is finally published! Edited by Pamela Hill Smith, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography is an amazing resource for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Having read the unbound manuscript of Pioneer Girl previously, I was not certain what to expect of the book. Quite honestly, I was shocked at the amount of information Pamela Smith Hill gathered and included in Pioneer Girl.  Maybe I should not have been so surprised since I took the author/editor's free on-line class about Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Are you signed up for the spring semester yet?)

In 1932, Little House in the Big Woods was published. Prior to the final title name, When Grandma Was a Little Girl was considered. It was first written as an autobiography instead of a children's book. A facsimile of a large portion of it is included in Pioneer Girl.
Manuscript of Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pioneer Girl manuscript. South Dakota Historical Society Press.

In case you did not know, before Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the Little House series, she was motivated, likely by the passing of her parents, to put the stories of her childhood to paper. Laura had been writing magazine articles for years, but her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, encouraged her to write a book. Laura wrote Pioneer Girl in 1929-1930 when she was sixty years old. (Affiliate link.)

When Laura completed the book, Rose, an accomplished author and editor, edited Laura's work (and likely took more liberties than an editor typically would...but that's a different story) and sent it off to her contacts within the publishing industry. Unfortunately, the United States was in the Great Depression and books were not selling as they once did. Since Pioneer Girl did not sell, Rose suggested to her mother to work at it from a new angle: children's fiction. 
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder age twenty-seven. South Dakota State Historical Society.

During her lifetime, Laura published eight books in the Little House series. (She did not write The First Four Years as a children's book. It was published after her death as the ninth book in the series.) As one reads Pioneer Girl, it's like taking a walk down Memory Lane with your favorite books. Much of the series' content comes directly from Pioneer Girl though more details were added at a later time. 

For those who love history or wonder at the accuracy within the Little House writings are in for a real treat. I suspect about half of Pioneer Girl is Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography. The other half (or more) is comprised of photographs, meticulous notes, and historical context from the research of the incredible Pioneer Girl Project

Pioneer Girl is a treasure of information for fans of the fiction writer and for the historical figure of Laura Ingalls Wilder. In addition to Laura's autobiography, it acts as a Little House and Laura Ingalls Wilder encyclopedia. In case you can't tell, I highly recommend Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Pamela Hill Smith. It's nearly 500 pages long with 125 images and 8 maps.

Though just published, a second printing is already in the works with books to be shipped mid-January. Order your copy today!

Disclosure: I received an advance reader copy of Pioneer Girl to facilitate this review. However, all opinions are my own. All images are used here with permission. Please do not use images without permission.

~ Annette Whipple
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