Book Review–Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

Aside from L.M. Montgomery’s books about Anne of Green Gables, no book series has quite so captured my imagination as the story of pioneer girl Laura Ingalls in “The Little House” books. I’ve been reading them since I was 8 years old or so. So, when I spotted this book–Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography–at the library in the “new nonfiction” section, I was ecstatic. This book did not disappoint.

In the first part of the book, the writing and editing process that produced “The Little House” books is explored. Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was actually a journalist, and she played a large part in the publication of “The Little House” books. I think I’ve always idealized “The Little House” stories, attributing the complete truth to them. I shouldn’t have been surprised that the original story was edited and pared down, but I’ll have to admit that I was. Technically, “The Little House” stories are novels for children. Yet that doesn’t mean that they aren’t true. Laura Ingalls Wilder, commenting on the book said, “It is the truth. But it’s not the whole truth” (quote from Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography).

The bulk of this book is large sections from the original manuscript (so you’ll notice some differences from the published novels), with annotations on either side, either clarifying information, shedding light on editorial decisions, or explaining historical references.  It is organized by date, following the Ingalls family as they make their way from Kansas to the Dakota Territory. One of the more interesting things I learned while reading this book was that during the “Long Hard Winter,” the real Ingalls family actually had another family living with them. It wasn’t a perfect situation and there was some conflict, so Laura and her daughter Rose decided to edit that detail from the final manuscript.

This book also includes many photos I hadn’t seen before. Photos of the Ingalls and Wilder family, as well as photos of many of the people mentioned in the book. Some people’s photos were just as I had imagined them!

Overall, I really loved looking through this book and gaining some additional perspective on this real pioneer girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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