If you like… Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’m a midwestern girl through and through.  Sure, I had a couple of brief forays to the West (Colorado and Wyoming) and the South (Kentucky, twice) in my childhood thanks to my dad’s job, but I’m a Minnesota girl (raised in Illinois & Wisconsin).

I fell in love with the prairie while in college in central Illinois, and I started reading everything Willa Cather had ever written.  But I’ve already blogged about that.  This post is about another prairie writer who has influenced midwestern girls for years: Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Two titles, in particular, stick out to me.  Borrowed Names looks at Laura Ingalls Wilder’s influence on her daughter in a novella-in-verse published with the stories of two other women of the time and their daughters.  Jeanine Atkins writes,

“These three women not only shared a birth year but also a devotion to work and motherhood. They raised daughters who lived in a world that changed as quickly as theirs had, and who changed with it. The only child of Laura Ingalls Wilder inherited the family wanderlust and became a world traveling journalist.”

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose is also a novel-in-verse that was inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Rose writes in the author’s note,

“Growing up, I fell in love with the Little House books and talked about Laura Ingalls Wilder as if she were someone I knew personally.  In the late nineteenth century, when Laura was a girl, schoolwork focused on recitation and memorization and favored students able to do those things well. When I became a teacher, I grew curious about what life must have been like for frontier children who found schooling a challenge. Would a girl who couldn’t read well have been kept out of school? “

In the book, May struggles with dyslexia, though it isn’t named, and it is a fascinating look at history through the lens of a strong, intelligent young girl.  Read more about it in Jen Robinson’s Book Page review.

Other books pictured: Addie Across the Prairie by Laurie Lawlor, Prairie Songs by Pam Conrad, and My Prairie Year by Brett Harvey

Want more reader’s advisory?  Check out previous “If you like…” posts.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links.   A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support!

If you like… Willa Cather

“As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country as the water is the sea.  The red of the grass made all the great prairie the color of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up.  And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.”

–from My Antonia by Willa Cather

I fell in love with the prairie when I read My Antonia several years ago, and I quickly read several more of Willa Cather’s books in search of more.   Years later, I find myself still drawn to books that seem like they will capture the same depth and beauty that Cather portrayed in her books.  I read A Lantern in her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich only to find a story, less of the prairie, and more of a woman’s choice to give up everything for her family.  It wasn’t quite what I was looking for.  Later I read Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker.  This was closer to what I wanted.  This coming-of-age novel follows a young girl as she determines what is important to her and gets to know her parents for who they are.  It was a good book, but not quite it either.

Then I found Giants in the Earth.  In this story, which feels like a saga but only covers about 4 or 5 years, several Norwegian families settle in an isolated area in the Dakotas.  The struggle of life on the prairie is particularly illustrated in one family in which the father/husband seems almost manic in his drive to success and the wife/mother falls deeper and deeper into depression due to loneliness.   It was quite powerful, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a story to explore the pioneer life further after reading Willa Cather.

If you want to put a visual to the quote above from My Antonia, you might take a look at Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen.  This picture book, illustrated by David Small (I blogged about his memoir here), follows a young girl adjust from city life to pioneer life.  Small’s illustrations really capture the movement and beauty of the prairie.  The book is perfect to share this particular time and place with elementary school age kids. (It was a bit long for my preschooler.)  Highly recommended.

 

You may also be interested in some previous If You like… posts.

FCC Disclaimer: All books mentioned were reviewed from library copies.  All book links are Amazon Affiliate links.