August 27, 2019

A Different Kind of Little House

As you read The First Four Years, you might notice it seems different than the other Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It might help you to understand more about this book.
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1. Laura Ingalls Wilder ended the Little House series after Laura and Almanzo married in These Happy Golden Years.

Wilder didn’t write The First Four Years as part of the Little House series. It was published as an ending to the Little House books, even though Wilder didn’t plan it that way.

2. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote this book for adult readers.

The first eight books in the Little House series have a similar tone. This book is written for a different audience so it is different. Though the characters are familiar to Little House readers, it’s a grown-up story.

3. Laura Ingalls Wilder only wrote a first draft of this book.

Laura Ingalls Wilder never revised the manuscript of this book. She never tried to have it published (though she could have).

Writers sometimes call a book’s first draft a “sloppy copy.” It takes many revisions for a first draft to become a final draft they are proud of. That’s how we see great writing.

Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was a professional writer and worked closely with her mother to edit the first eight Little House books. But she never edited this book. The book was edited prior to publication, but not by Laura or Rose. 

4. The book was published posthumously. That means it was published after Laura Ingalls Wilder’s death.


Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, gave the unrevised manuscript to a man named Roger Lea MacBride after Laura’s death. He was like a grandson to Rose, but not an actual relative. It was only after Rose’s death that he told an editor at Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) about the manuscript. The First Four Years was published in 1971. That was 28 years after These Happy Golden Years was published!

Want to know more? A few resources I can think of are The Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill, Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser, Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and books by William Anderson. 

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