Category Archives: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Chapter 718 Best Loved Descriptions of Autumn, 2012 Edition

Long-time readers of this blog  may recall that just about every year I post my favorite literary descriptions of my favorite season — autumn — many of them from one of my favorite authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder. You can see previous choices here, here, and here.

One of the reasons I do this is so that I can remind myself that the seasons are changing and that autumn is indeed a beautiful season, even if you have to look for it to find it here in California, where the year-round weather can best be described as warm-but-not-hot and cool-but-not-cold.  The mild climate makes for comfortable living, but sometimes the seasons have a rather uninteresting sameness to them.

Despite the fact that the calendar says autumn has arrived, the temperatures in the Bay Area this week are supposed to be in the 80s, which seems hot enough for summer to me.  Even though Autumn officially began on September 22, my hibiscus plant, a sign of high summer in other parts of the country, did not get the memo:

And the Japanese Maple tree in the backyard has only just been notified that autumn may indeed be around the corner. A very few leaves are turning colors, but not enough to convince me it’s autumn:

No matter. Undaunted, I decorate my home with various things to bring the feel of autumn into the house, since it can not easily be found outdoors.

An old red serving tray I inherited from my grandmother, spruced up with some small pumpkins and an acorn garland.

(Do not pay attention to the tacky silk flowers. I am too busy to water real ones on a regular basis.)

A centerpiece filled with a scented candle (cinnamon), and, um, I guess I’ll just admit it, faux fruit.

(Plastic faux fruit is also tacky, but it does bring nice autumnal hues to my living room.  Don’t judge. I’m a bookseller not an interior decorator.)

A welcoming fall wreath on our front door. This one’s made of real oak leaves.

And now we can get to the matter at hand — 2012’s Best-Loved Description of Autumn! This year’s selection is an excerpt from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie, the chapter entitled, “Snug for Winter”.  If you’re looking for autumnal evocation, for something to make you feel warm and cozy, you can’t go wrong with a title like that.

In this chapter and in this particular book, the Ingalls family is preparing to move from their homestead on the prairie into the little town of DeSmet, South Dakota for the winter. After the previous, extremely harsh winter caught the family unprepared and almost caused them to starve to death, the family has decided this year to winter in town and to move there before winter actually arrives. (See the book The Long Winter for that harrowing tale of . . . well, of a really long, very cold winter on the frontier.) The houses in town are of sturdier (read: warmer) construction, and supplies for the winter can be more easily replenished than out on the cold, desolate prairie. School, another harbinger of autumn, has just started for Laura and her sister Carrie:

All through the pleasant fall weather Laura and Carrie were busy girls. In the mornings they helped do the chores and get breakfast. Then they filled their dinner pail, dressed for school and hurried away on the mile walk to town. After school they hurried home, for there was work to do until darkness came. Saturday was a whole day of busy working, in a hurry to be ready to move to town. Laura and Carrie picked up potatoes while Pa dug them. They cut the tops from turnips and helped Pa pile them in the wagon. They pulled and topped the carrots, too, and the beets and onions. They gathered the tomatoes and the ground-cherries.

All day long while the girls were in school, Ma made preserves of the red tomatoes, of the purple husk-tomatoes, and of the golden ground-cherries. She made pickles of the green tomatoes that would not have time to ripen before it froze. The house was full of the syrupy scent of preserves and the spicy odor of pickles.”We will take our provisions with us when we move to town this time,” said Pa with satisfaction. “And we must go soon. I don’t want another October blizzard to catch us in this thin-walled little house.”

“This winter isn’t going to be as hard as last winter,” Laura said. “The weather doesn’t feel the same.”

“No,” Pa agreed. “It isn’t likely this winter will be as hard, nor come as soon, but this time I intend to be ready for it when it does come.”  He hauled the oat straw and the corn fodder and stacked them near his haystacks in town. He hauled the potatoes and turnips, beets and carrots, and stored them in the cellar of his store building. Then busily all one Monday evening and far into the night, Laura and Carrie helped Ma pack clothes and dishes and books.

Whatever temperatures autumn brings to your part of the world, I hope you’ll join me in marking the change of season.  What’s your favorite description of autumn?

See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 670 “Mary, Laura and the folks live again in these illustrations.”

Did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were published in two different editions with two sets of illustrations? The earliest editions were illustrated by Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle. Later, in 1947, Garth Williams was commissioned to create new illustrations for all eight books. When I first read the books as a kid in the 1970s, it was the “Uniform Edition” of 1953 with the Garth Williams illustrations that I owned and loved. His simple pencil, charcoal, and ink drawings brought the stories to life and are still the images that come to my mind when I try to envision Laura Ingalls and her family and their life on the prairie. Laura herself remarked upon seeing the illustrations for the first time, “Mary, Laura and the folks live again in these illustrations.” Indeed, it is hard for me to separate the illustrations from the stories, so engraved are they upon my mind.

When I visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in De Smet, South Dakota on our family’s drive across seven states back in 2008, I wrote this:

From what I observed, neither the LIWMS nor the Ingalls Homestead has on display any first edition books or letters written by Laura. The antiquarian bookseller in me thinks that is a shame, because a display of something written in Wilder’s own hand would make a lovely addition to the exhibits. So would a display of Helen Sewell’s or Garth Williams’ illustrations.

It turns out that I’m not the only one who thinks that the Society would serve Laura fans and scholars well if it had some of these primary source materials. Last week, I received an exciting email from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. They have learned that many Garth Williams illustrations of Wilder’s books are going to be offered at auction and would like to acquire some of the illustrations from each book. You can read a little about the Society and their goal here. Here’s the email I received:

Dear Friends of the Society,

It’s no secret that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books captured a part of our country’s history and earned fans from around the world.

As a friend of the Society, I hope you’ll be as excited as I am to learn the original illustrations used in the Little House books are coming up for auction. Until 2010 all of the original illustrations had been in the hands of Garth Williams family and his estate.

At this time the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has the unique opportunity to purchase the original illustrations by Garth Williams. It is the goal of the Society to purchase at least one illustration from each book, especially about her life spent in De Smet.

Our goal is to raise $30,000. We know you are as proud of De Smet as we are and would like the opportunity to be a part of purchasing the illustrations. We must count on you to make this possible!

I hope you’ll take a moment right now to consider joining us in bringing the illustrations home to De Smet. Click here to donate online.

In return, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a difference in preserving the heritage of the Little Town on the Prairie, De Smet, South Dakota.

I can’t stress enough how much your support will mean to us!

Sincerely,

Cheryl Palmlund

Executive Director

P.S. Please make a donation today, we are counting on you and remember, your gift is tax deductible.

For more information about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society and this fundraising campaign click here.

“Bringing the Laura Ingalls Wilder legacy to life today while preserving it for the future”

If you’d like to help the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in raising the funds needed to make a good bid for some of Williams’s illustrations, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

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Chapter 665 TV Laura Ingalls vs. Book Laura Ingalls — Is There Room for Both?

The television show, Little House on the Prairie, aired weekly in the United States from 1974 until 1982.  I was six years old when the show began, and, somewhere around age 10, finally started reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. I began reading her books for two reasons:

1) I wanted to know more about the Laura I saw on the television show and the historic time in which she lived and that led me to read the books.

2) I sat in the back row in my 5th grade classroom and I was so bored during Math class that I would read Wilder’s books, hidden on my lap, just below the level of the desk, while the teacher tried to instruct a room full of kids about the merits of things like long division and decimals, fractions, and percents.

There were consequences to these things:

1) I learned that the book version of Laura Ingalls told a different story than the television version of Laura Ingalls.

2) My Math skills are terrible, but I can bake my own bread and churn butter like no one’s business. I also do pretty well in Spelling Bees.

I have read of other Laura fans who only like the books and who disparage the television show as smarmy and overly-sentimental. From adult eyes, perhaps the show was syrupy, but it made my child’s soul happy to think of this family who lived so long ago, who rose to the occasion of  serious challenges and endured various hardships, and who always stuck together no matter what. I enjoyed watching Television Laura battle Television Nellie Oleson. And I really, really wanted one of those bonnets they wore for sleeping at night. Later, when I read the books, I learned that Laura’s actual story was factually different from the tv show. Still, the two had their similarities:  the book also involved a family who lived long ago, who rose to the occasion of serious challenges and endured various hardships. Book Laura still battles with Book Nellie Oleson. I don’t recall whether the books depict Laura and Mary wearing those shower-cap like bonnets to bed with their flannel nightgowns, but I always imagined them doing so when I read the books.  For me, there was no problem reconciling TV Laura Ingalls and Book Laura Ingalls.

Since we’re on the topic of television, I’m just going to come out and admit it now.  I was also a childhood fan of another TV show, also accused of being overly-sentimental, about another family enduring hardship (this time during The Great Depression) that aired around the same time as Little House on the PrairieThe Waltons (aired weekly in the U.S. from 1972-1981). Did you know that The Waltons was also based on a book?  The book is  Spencer’s Mountain, by Earl Hamner, Jr.  As it turns out, some of the skills from this particular era in American history (like, say, frugality) are going to come in handy given the current economic challenges in the U.S. Almost makes me wish I had paid more attention in Math class. :)

I digress. What I really wanted to point out in this post is that I recently read (but can’t recall where — was it Beyond Little House? — that a boxed-set of the complete series of Little House on the Prairie will be available beginning in October. If you’re one of the fans who, like me, has no problem reconciling TV Laura and Book Laura, I thought you’d like to know.  Of course, I don’t have time to watch the complete series on television myself, but it’s nice to know that I can if I ever want to.

So, Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, what do you think? Is there room for both TV Laura Ingalls and Book Laura Ingalls in our collective memory of this pioneer?  We know from past posts, that I have no problem with this.  Remember Walt Whitman’s quote, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

The sleeping bonnets I mentioned above:

And, just because there might be a few of you around my age who also watched The Waltons, “Good Night, John Boy”:

See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 661 Summer Reading

One of the best things about the long drive to visit my brothers in Southern California recently is that I had time to read a few books which have been in my TBR (to-be-read) stack for quite a while. No, not while I was driving. Thoughtful Husband was driving; I was reading. I am sure that many of you would not like to read in a car, but I have somehow managed to be able to do so without it making me feel nauseous. I think this is why:  When riding in a car, I cannot get up to answer a phone, to ship an order, to make a meal, or to do laundry. My children are strapped seat-belted into immobility safety in their seats. Thoughtful Husband is busy concentrating on the road and the route. It is the perfect time for me to pick up a book and read uninterrupted. To have a long drive ahead and to not have to drive the car is a rare gift and it is best not to reject this gift by letting it make me car-sick.

I finally had time to read Wendy McClure’s The Wilder Life:  My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. I also read Correspondence:  A Novel in Letters, by N. John Hall. Next, I re-read a book I first read several years ago, Charles P. Everitt’s Adventures of a Treasure Hunter, an antiquarian bookseller’s memoir. Depending on whether you’re reading my blog because you are a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder or a bibliophile who loves Victorian literature or an antiquarian bookseller, I can happily recommend every title I read. I am so glad that I liked each book. There is nothing worse than making the time to read for pleasure and then having to read something you don’t like. Life’s too short for that.

A little bit of food for thought, from Adventures of a Treasure Hunter.  Everitt quotes a privately printed book, Housed on the Third Floor, by book collector Bruce Cotten:

Book collecting, whether an acquired taste or an acquired nuisance, is in either case acquired.  It develops by degrees, and passes through numerous forms and phases, rather curious to look upon.  At first you only want certain sorts and kinds of books and reject innumerable volumes that in after years you are violently seeking.  You only by degrees overcome your prejudices and dislikes and gradually find yourself including and exploring in ever larger fields.  Then there is always, and for a long time, a struggle, when you realize that the disease has really gripped you; and numerous determinations are made to stop this thing entirely and not to permit yourself to be classed with those mildly deranged people who collect things.

I’ve enjoyed many bookseller memoirs, but this one, for its explanations of the mind of the bookseller and the mind of the book collector, is one of the best I have yet to read.

See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 638 The TBR (To-Be-Read) Stack

The book business has been busy lately. So much so that I haven’t had much time to read. I have a new TBR (to-be-read) pile next to my already existing stacks of books waiting to be read. I look forward to a quiet afternoon when I can sit down with a pot of tea in one of my book-themed teapots, a bit of chocolate, and begin to work my way through the following:


Some magazines are book-related, some are homekeeping-related, and some are just for fun.


I’ve been looking forward to the release of Wendy McClure’s book, The Wilder Life, for a while. The author is a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and toured all of the Little House home sites and then wrote a book about it. Having visited Laura’s hometown of DeSmet myself a couple of summers ago, I hope McClure’s book is as enjoyable as I think it might be. I’ll let you know what I think when I finally get a chance to sit down and read it.

I’m currently re-reading Little Town on the Prairie so I can participate in the read-a-long over at Beyond Little House.

I picked the third book, Growing up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, because the title made me think I’d like it. Whether I will actually like it remains to be seen, but I’ll tell you what I think after I finish the book.

See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 634 Read-Along

I’m over at Beyond Little House today, writing about the pivotal role of Chapter 5 in Little Town on the Prairie, the book that tells the story of how Laura Ingalls Wilder begins to become a grown-up. Click here to read all about it.

In other news, we had a very short, very jolty earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area this afternoon, measuring 3.8 on the Richter Scale. (That’s very small, almost not worth mentioning.) What is worth mentioning is that the earthquake occurred today — the 105th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and fire. Spooky!

See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 633 Little Town on the Prairie Read Along and the New York Book Fair

I’m still working on that post about how I choose which books to bring to a book fair, and I’m also working on a post for the Little Town on the Prairie read-along over at Beyond Little House. While I work on those, you can read Fine Books & Collections editor Rebecca Rego Barry’s report on last weekend’s New York Antiquarian Book Fair:

Part 1

Part 2

Jeremy from Philobiblos gives his report here and, for a bookseller’s perspective, you can read what Ian of Lux Mentis had to say here, here,and here.

I didn’t go to the New York fair this year, but I plan to go some day. It sounds like lots of fun was had by both buyers and sellers.

I’ll be back with that post about choosing books for a book fair just as soon as I can.

See you in the stacks!

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