(alert: if you do not have a Crazy and Enduring Obsession with all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie, you might want to scoot along and come visit me on another day. I won't mind. I might judge you a little, but I won't mind too much.)
'Pioneer Girl' is the annotated (omg so annotated! so many notes! so many details!) autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It contains large portions of Laura's unedited early drafts of the books, (and there are tons of type written letters showing the crossed out revisions from her daughter and editor, Rose Wilder). Worst sentence ever, please forgive, I'm very excited.
(Laura is the one standing on the right)
'Pioneer Girl' has never-before-published details from the stories that did not find their way into the books, because some nuggets were Just Not Appropriate for children's books. (like people lighting themselves on fire and whatnot) It has backstory on the Ingalls and Wilder families, it has details on the history of the time, and on the history of the real life counterparts to many of the book characters (Laura's arch enemy, Nellie Oleson, was based on TWO girls - the teen 'Nellie' was actually named Genevieve. Laura spells her name as 'Genieve' but apparently it was 'Genevieve'.) It has pictures and photos of the real life places described in the book.
(The real life 'Nellie Oleson' on the right, Laura's BFF Ida on the left)
It talks and talks and TALKS (and this is a GOOD thing) about the behind-the-scenes Real And True happenings - details and incidents gleaned from Laura's writings, personal letters, diaries, unpublished manuscripts - all meticulously distilled into coherency by Laura's biographer, Pamela Smith Hill. The level of research that has gone into this thing......I just can't even wrap my brain around it all.
'Little Town on the Prairie' where Laura and Carrie have Almanzo's sister Eliza Jane as their teacher and what all went down in that classroom, when Eliza Jane made Carrie rock the seat? I have to tell you - I PREFER THE UNEDITED VERSION - that Laura had such a temper!! LOVE IT SO MUCH. That epic face-off between Laura and Eliza Jane sounds a bit more intense than the version presented in the books, let me tell you.
(The real life 'On the Banks of Plum Creek' on the left)
And Laura and Genevieve! (aka, Nellie Oleson) - oh my stars, Laura really and truly HATED her. The real versions of the story discuss how much. Genevieve called Laura 'fat' to her face, while Laura told Genevieve that her feet were too large (ARE YOU DYING WITH LAUGHTER??) and that her clothes were old hand-me-downs.
There are so many details to Laura's original writing that are just amazing to read. I can see easily why such details were tossed out of the final versions of the books though - a lot of it is Laura rambling about various things that don't really push the narrative of the storyline forward - when you read her rough draft writing, you can really see clearly how heavily the books were edited into the creations that they are. Rose Wilder was a genius.
Now some of you might know that this book was very much a labor of love on the part of the publishing company - not many copies were created of the book initially, and it sold out in a heartbeat. I tried to get it last holiday season to no avail.
(Pa and Ma Ingalls - that's quite a beard.)
NO ONE had this book. I found it in an independent bookstore a few weeks ago when we went to Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington - there's a remarkable little bookstore there and they flipping had it. I shrieked when I saw it - and turned to the bookstore owner and yelled at her "YOU HAVE IT!" and she started laughing at me. I turned to Andrew, who was already shaking his head in dismay, after seeing the size of the thing - and was like, SORRY MY FRIEND, CHRISTMAS JUST CAME EARLY FOR ME, THERE'S NO WAY I'M LEAVING WITHOUT THIS BOOK.
'Pioneer Girl' is back in stock at Amazon, and for a good $15 less than I paid for it. At $31, this is a STEAL of a price for a book of this beauty, size, and complexity. GO GO GO before it sells out again!
I'm just a little excited.
(Note: this is very much geared towards the adult 'Little House' fan - the density of the text just isn't going to excite many kids or be appropriate for them - my 9 year old daughter has enjoyed seeing some of the pictures, but that's all she cares about - if you want this bad boy, buy it for YOURSELF - this is all much too much for a kiddo to appreciate.)