Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill
The Little House on the Prairie books at our house are disintegrating, thanks to the repeated readings of my daughter. When I saw this book mentioned, I requested it from the library and had to wait months for my chance at a copy. The main text is Laura Ingalls Wilder's first draft of her memoir, shared with her daughter and modified two or three times in continued failed attempts to find a publisher for a memoir written for adults. Later, she and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, expanded on different parts of the memoir to write the children's books and other fiction.
The real treasure of this edition, however, are the annotated notes. The editor (and presumably a team of assistants) sought evidence of each person mentioned in the memoir, his or her relationship to the Ingalls family, and their fates in life. They attempted to identify every animal, bird, and flower, often commenting on the interaction between early pioneers and the environment. They researched historical events and attempted to place episodes of Laura's life in time despite a lack of dates in her memoir. Illustrated with photographs, simplified maps, and other artifacts as well as illustrations by Helen Sewell and Garth Williams, it is a feast for anyone interested in the real Laura Ingalls Wilder and pioneer life.
The extensive index is ideal for those who want to ask about one
particular person or experience, but I read the entire book cover to
cover with delight. I was impressed at the evidence for Wilder's growth as an author and how she skillfully molded events and experiences in her own life into those of a fictional family that epitomized her ideal of American pioneers.