Reviews

Reviewers are now commenting on Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder (2017). To see what they are saying, read the samples below or click on the provided links for the full reviews.

“The essays offer a rich diversity of subject matter. . . . [striking] a balance between hagiography and expose; all are even-handed in their treatment of Wilder’s life and writing, not glossing over views she held that clash with modern sensibilities. These informative essays will be of considerable interest to Wilder fans and scholars.”—Publishers Weekly

“Speaking as a lifelong reader of all things Little House-related, I can’t recommend this book too highly. Following the publication of the peerless Pioneer Girl, The Annotated Autobiography, this new book is the perfect appendix, and then some. Edited (superbly) and introduced by Nancy Tystad Koupal, . . . this collection of scholarly, informative, and compelling essays provide the reader with much invaluable information, lore, facts, and in-depth studies of every nature of Laura’s life, the inception, composition and publication of her books, what the back stories are; the realities, myths, and clarification of life out on the harsh, brutal prairies, the nature of pioneer living, and much in the way of psychological, cultural, and societal insights. Much of it is sobering, and even grim, but as always with the Ingalls and the Wilders, their steadfast spirit is a sure testament to their learned toughness and fortitude. Many lessons for living come through these pages.”—Niel Rishoi, Amazon Reviewer

“This a very interesting book that I would recommend for anyone that would like to learn more about the little house series and Mrs. Wilder herself. This book does explain some of the hardships that Mrs. Wilder faced and explains about her writing style. Also, it provides information about the sometimes difficult relationship she shared with her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. There is a great deal of information about the challenges that Mrs. Wilder faced in getting her little house series published.”—Goodreads reviewer

Review Links:

Amazon.com

Goodreads

Publishers Weekly

 


 

To see what reviewers continue to say about Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography (2014), read the samples below or click on the provided links for the full reviews.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography “is a delightful and necessary volume for anyone interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder. . . . What fascinated me was that for every column of original story, there were at least three columns of annotations. . . . I found myself reading the annotations . . . and then going back to the corresponding story. The annotations comprise what would otherwise take many separate volumes of history, plant and animal biology, politics, folklore, medicine, music, religion, literature, agriculture, genealogy, culture, holiday traditions, and human relations related to the period.”—Nebraska History, Winter 2015, pg. 203

“The large-format book is beautifully designed, the explanatory annotations running close to Wilder’s words. Maps, photographs, and some illustrations from Wilder’s novels accompany the text, which serves well to illuminate the person and experiences behind the beloved fictional series.”—Minnesota History Magazine, Book Reviews, pg. 304

“Beautifully designed, lavishly illustrated, and heavily annotated. . . . Readers will come away with a clearer sense of how [Wilder] refashioned her life to emphasize a progression toward fulfillment and success. Pioneer Girl reveals the fortunes of the Ingalls family were even more precarious than they appear in the novels. . . . Flatter and less emotional than the fiction, the memoir’s frank, sometimes rueful self-portrait allows us to see the hard reality of poverty on the Great Plains. . . . this is a richly rewarding volume, filling a gap in the scholarship and providing an invaluable resource for Wilder’s devoted readers.”—Caroline Fraser, Missouri Historical Review

“For those familiar with the Little House books, so much is familiar, albeit in compressed, nascent form. The character Laura, created by Wilder when she began rewriting Pioneer Girl as fiction for children, is utterly recognizable in Wilder’s “I”. . . . Writing Pioneer Girl seems to have been a crucial step on the path to the Little House series. . . . and a new identity for Wilder, who, well into her sixties became an artist. . . . Do not come to Pioneer Girl expecting to discover dark secrets glossed over or transformed into light in the Little House books. Read it, instead, to learn something about the difference between a logbook and a story; between streams of remembered events and a fully developed memoir or autobiographical novel. Read it to better understand the alchemy that transforms those seemingly vaporous things—memories—into enduring national treasures.”—Rachel Marie Stone, Christianity Today: Books & Culture

“Consider ‘Pioneer Girl’ to be a firsthand history lesson—enriched by genealogy, geography, and an explanation of local culture. In this way, readers not only get an intimate look at Wilder’s life, but they also receive a fairly solid sense of what it was like to be a pioneer. . . . In the end, the annotations work as a way for Hill to give readers more context as well as personal asides about Wilder’s writing style. The wealth of extra information feels, at times, overwhelming, but it gives readers the freedom to explore as much or as little as they want of Wilder’s world. Considering the sometimes choppy nature of ‘Pioneer Girl,’ this partnership of story and annotations works nicely.”—Chelsea Scarnegie,The Epoch Times

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography “should be read not like the later fiction books written by the author about her childhood, but as the core experience biographical source for all those books. The reading experience, especially for Wilder fans and enthusiasts, is engrossing, intriguing, and sometimes surprising or frightening. . . . In addition, many black and white photographs and illustrations and maps that have not been published before help to delineate the well loved characters from the Little House stories. . . . It is truly a legacy and a welcome gift to be able to read the rich biographical writings from which these books grew. Also welcome is the detailed analysis and commentary about the evolving relationship between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter and promoter, Rose Wilder Lane. A fascinating interplay of ideas is glimpsed that accompanied the evolving of the material of “Pioneer Girl” and the subsequent Little House books. In short, Pioneer Girl, the Annotated Autobiography is a feast of fact and writer’s processes that tantalizes the reader, laced with layers of historical detail and research that add depth and richness to the already profound experience of the celebrated author, Laura Ingalls Wilder.”—Nancy Lorraine, The Midwest Book Review

“The amount of work that went into this volume is truly astounding, and Pamela Smith Hill and all the historians who assisted her on the project are to be commended for their untiring commitment to preserving the heritage of Laura Ingalls Wilder. . . . For loyal fans who may be concerned that this new work will reveal inaccurate story elements from a classic childhood series, Pioneer Girl does not detract from the winsome, innocent charm of the Little House novels. On the contrary, it enhances the literary abilities of a truly remarkable author. . . . Pioneer Girl will be a captivating book to read slowly, relishing each page. For all the adults who were once children, growing up with Laura and Mary and Carrie, nurtured by Ma, protected by Pa and Jack the brindle bulldog, don’t hesitate to find a copy of the remarkable volume that is entitled Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.”— Carly Egger, Prairie Sky Book Reviews

“Fans and scholars alike will find enormous pleasure in reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography. . . . Meticulously edited, introduced, and annotated by Pamela Smith Hill, this edition of Wilder’s original manuscript holds tremendous value for those interested in women’s studies, American studies, and children’s literature. . . . I recommend reading the manuscript once through on its own, then re-reading it with annotations. Those tracking the differences between the autobiographical manuscript and the Little House series are useful, while those noting inaccuracies in Wilder’s memory are absolutely essential.”—Holly Blackford, Women’s Review of Books

“This is a visually beautiful book—coffee table-sized with a lovely watercolor cover reminiscent of the Little House illustrations. Inside the book is crammed with footnotes, old photos and details about the history of the writing. . . . Pioneer Girl finally makes it into print. It is interspersed with hundreds of pages of explanations, footnotes and connections to the Little House books that flesh out the original memoir and add context. We see where Wilder changed facts to make a better story, moved times and locations around, even added or deleted characters, turning nonfiction into fiction. . . . Whether or not you are a fan of the Little House books, this well-researched volume chronicles a remarkable journey that shows the growth of a writer as well as the evolution of a classic series.”—Kerry Pettis, Broomfield Enterprise

“Editor Pamela Smith Hill’s annotated version of Wilder’s original draft contradicts critics who allege that Lane was the ‘creative genius’ behind the Little House books. Moreover, Pioneer Girl reveals the vivid life that Wilder lived, touching upon darker themes only hinted at in her popular series, including stories of poverty, marital strife, mob violence, and even manslaughter.”—Kansas History, Vol. 38, No. 1, Spring 2015

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography “offers an in-depth look at the original hand-written nonfiction manuscript by Wilder . . . an extensive back story of both Lane and Wilder as writers and the role Pioneer Girl played in their respective careers. . . . I found it fascinating . . . Pioneer Girl is dense with annotations that explain how original text was edited, where individual stories ended up in the final series, and how editors worked to fact-check Wilder’s personal memories. . . . Most importantly, Pioneer Girl frames Wilder’s work in a historical context and closes the gap between her pioneer days as a young girl and her life as a highly acclaimed fiction writer . . . Pioneer Girl offers an in-depth look at the circumstances that, over time, caused the original girlhood tales of Wilder to evolve into a series of bestselling books that earned Wilder critical acclaim and recognition that have endured for decades.”—Lane Brown, The Christian Science Monitor

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography presents “a crucial addition to the world of Wilder lore and scholarship . . . Hill’s meticulous notes, which account for about half of Pioneer Girl, provide rich historical context for every setting, incident and character, even minor ones. . . research, involving census data, letters, archives and land records, is nothing short of astounding. Photographs, illustrations, charts and maps add to the museum-like experience. . . It is a long-awaited treasure that provides invaluable, contextualized access to the origins of an American classic.”—Bich Minh Nguyen, LA Times

Pioneer Girl really is a revelation of truths both dark and bright. Perhaps the brightest one is that the narrative, transcribed from Wilder’s handwritten notebooks, is compelling and well-paced . . . Just as Pioneer Girl isn’t a children’s book, neither is it quite a story of adulthood. Rather, it’s about being on the frontier of adulthood, where saloons, scandals, and unhappy marriages hover on the periphery of Laura’s world just as much as wolves and prairie fires—perils of a yet-to-be explored territory. Some of the most striking moments show Laura’s awareness of her own life changing alongside the soon-to-be settled landscape . . . Growing up is bittersweet, but Pioneer Girl is rich enough to make us feel fortunate that we’re old enough at last to know the whole story.”—Wendy McClure, Refinery29

“The South Dakota Historical Society Press has now produced a lavishly annotated, illustrated and curiously engrossing edition of this previously unpublished manuscript, transcribed from six yellowing writing tablets. . . .Wilder displays as usual a spectacular memory of her own childhood and people’s names. Since she hardly ever changed one, the book’s researchers have verified many of her characters via census records and other genealogists’ tools, making this a work of social history as well as a revealing assemblage of Wilder lore. . . . Pioneer Girl shows Wilder in the raw, but mainly as a writer, not a gossiper. Instead of sex and crime, it’s full of spelling mistakes, as if Wilder was rushing to get this stuff down, whipped on by her eagle-eyed daughter. . . With Lane’s help Wilder learnt how to mold a true story, play around with chronology, build drama and emotion, select a topic for a chapter and stick to it, and render a child’s perspective with a word or two.  She became increasingly good, even poetic, at describing landscape and weather, physical crises and sensual experiences, while her own boldness, wit and humility, all in evidence in Pioneer Girl, gave her books their mass appeal.”—By Lucy Ellmann, Herald Scotland

“When I was a girl, I thought of Laura Ingalls Wilder as my grandmother, sort of. . . . Then came the long-anticipated television show: Little House on the Prairie, starring Michael Langdon, which got so many things wrong in my preteen estimation that it felt as if my own family heritage had been somehow appropriated and corrupted. . . . The publication of Pioneer Girl is a boon to legions of fans eager to know more about the historical truth of Wilder’s fiction as well as the working relationship between her and Lane. . . . the manuscript and Hill’s thorough annotations provide insight not just into the cultural and historical forces that molded Wilder and her books. They also offer a window into her creative process and her collaboration with Lane. . . . The book also reminds us of what endures about the Little House series: again and again, Pa uproots his wife and daughters, who, each time, manage to make a home even in the midst of the most austere and difficult circumstances. But finally, it’s not poverty or desperation that leads them to settle down in one place rather, Ma’s insistence that her girls gain an education. . . . In the end, just like the series, Wilder’s memoir turns out to be about transcendence and survival in the face of each new set of obstacles. As Hill points out, Pioneer Girl begins ‘with her family’s quest to find a home’ and ends with Wilder at home in the world.”—Nancy McCabe, Los Angeles Review of Books

“What readers get [from Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography] is social and historical context. They get lots of photographs of the characters from the books, plus maps, backstories and details about what happened to even quite minor characters in the books. They get images of maps hand-drawn by Laura herself of the places where she lived. They get what amounts to a running commentary alongside Laura’s text and it is utterly compelling. . . . What’s uncomfortably clear from Pioneer Girl is that life was much harder than Laura records. The Ingalls were frequently desperately poor, to the extent of not having enough to eat, something that is only hinted at in the books. . . . Pioneer Girl is thrilling and sad, and very revealing about the people in the Little House books and the times they lived in. There are no awful stories of abuse within the family, and Pa was not the kind of man who lived in a saloon, but the underlying story of the relentless poverty of the Ingalls’ lives is disturbing and horrible. It’s not the charming read that Laura’s Little House books are, but it’s essential for anyone interested in finding out more about her life.”—Rosita Boland, The Irish Times

“In the more than eight decades since the Little House books based on Wilder’s life first were published, millions of fans have found courage in the stories. . . . And many have yearned to know more about Wilder’s life. Now they are getting their wish. . . . The Little House books codified a particularly sunny brand of optimism amid difficulty. Pioneer Girl brings to light a somewhat darker story. . . Hill and a team of scholars transcribed Wilder’s handwritten tablets, so presumably this shows the world the closest thing to Wilder’s prose without the major editing her daughter did for her later books. . . . Reading Pioneer Girl proves how far Wilder’s memoir lies from the narrative structure and technique of the Little House books. This publication of Pioneer Girl strongly suggests that without Lane, Wilder was a much different writer.”—Christine Woodside, The Boston Globe Book Review

“While the book doesn’t brandish any smoking guns that would destroy the wholesome vision of the original Little House series. . . . The real revelation of Pioneer Girl lies in editor Hill’s commitment to the contextualization of the Ingallses’ story. . . . Yes, Hill’s extensive annotations tell you, it was lonely. But not as lonely as Ingalls and her daughter/editor Rose Wilder Lane . . . later made it seem. In reshaping the material in Pioneer Girl for the Little House series, Wilder and Lane bent the series toward a frontier personified by Pa—the restless, self-reliant, male spirit—while downplaying the elements of community and connection that the real-life Ingalls family discovered in its travels. . . . Pioneer Girl makes it clear that the whole town adapted to extreme winter conditions by doing the same things that the Ingalls family did—twisting hay for fuel, grinding seed wheat for flour. These actions of survival were communal and cultural, spreading as recommendations from family to family, even covered in the town’s newspaper. Yet, in The Long Winter, they are Ingalls innovations. The imagined family relied on one another for both companionship and survival. . . . Not every pioneer was intent upon isolation, Hill’s notes tell us; we never were a nation of Pas and Lauras. Plenty of Mas and Marys made their mark on the West, and this well-edited volume brings their stories back into view.”—Rebecca Onion, The Virginia Quarterly Review

“This book is a must for anyone who has grown up with Wilder’s novels. It is fascinating to revisit the world of this shared childhood once again with an adult perspective.”—Sarah Hutchins, Portland Book Review

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography . . . is a fascinating look at what really happened—and didn’t happen—out on the prairie. . . . we not only see what Wilder originally wrote, we can also see how much was true—Hill painstakingly examined historical records to see what the real Ingalls family did during that time, and proves (or disproves) every event in the book. . . the voice of Wilder will be immediately familiar to those [who] grew up with the Ingalls family, who loved reading the books or tuning into the TV show and who don’t mind taking one last trip back to the prairie.”—Lisa Swan, Guideposts

“The publication of Pioneer Girl has done more to keep the historical picture distinct, dispelling some of the mists and myths of legend and showing us the dark realities of US pioneer life.”—Sarah Churchwell, The Guardian

“Wilder’s memoir is a fascinating piece of American history, but it’s the annotations that  set Pioneer Girl apart as the most important work of its kind. . . . It thrills with new insights and mature content, educates with historical facts and documentation, and enlightens with cultural perspective and commentary, all while maintaining the spirit of adventure and integrity that is the backbone of the Little House world and Wilder herself. . . . in and of itself, Pioneer Girl is a fascinating slice of Americana, but it is Hill’s annotations, based on years of research and the efforts of the Pioneer Girl Project contributors, that set Pioneer Girl apart as the most important and relevant work of its kind. . . . With Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, Hill has ensured that not only will Laura Ingalls Wilder continue to inspire, but that her audience will grow and expand for generations to come.”—Pallas Gates McCorquodale, Foreword Reviews Magazine

“Wilder pulls off the difficult trick of telling a rich, satisfying story about good people being good. The Pa of Pioneer Girl is still a selfless provider, Ma is a skilled homemaker, Mary a prim playmate, and Laura a good-hearted tomboy. Their stories may have been tidied up on the path between nonfiction and fiction, but their characters remain reassuringly intact.”—Ruth Graham, The Slate Book Review

Review Links:

Broomfield Enterprise

The Boston Globe Book Review

The Christian Science Monitor

Foreword Reviews Magazine

The Guardian

Guideposts

Herald Scotland

The Irish Times

Los Angeles Review of Books

Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy

The Midwest Book Review

Portland Book Review

Prairie Sky Book Reviews

refinery29.com

slate.com

The Virginia Quarterly Review

Women’s Review of Books

To see what news sources are saying about Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, visit our Media Coverage page.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Reviews

  1. For years, I read the Little House series to my fourth graders, as well as my own three children. Now, Pioneer Girl has provided me with some interesting insight and background into the stories I had shared with so many children. Thank you to Pamela Smith Hill and the others who so carefully researched and organized the material. ln the future, I will be referring to parts of it while I continue to share Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories with my students.
    Kris Allen
    Beulah, Colorado

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s