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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography - Laura Ingalls Wilder, ed. Pamela Smith Hill

I didn’t think I’d get this book.    I won it through EarlyReviewers back in November.    I was totally psyched – I have very warm memories of my mother reading the Little House books to my sister and me when we were little.  

You generally don’t get those books for at least a month or so, so I wasn’t surprise to not get it immediately.      And then I saw this.   (Quick paraphrase: the South Dakota Historical Society had no idea how popular this book was going to be, and there were nowhere near enough printed for the demand.)     Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled at the attention the book was getting.     But I figured that meant there was no way I’d be getting my free copy.     So when I come home a few weeks ago and found a package from the South Dakota Historical Society, I knew it couldn’t be anything else.      There may have been actual squeeing involved.

So what this is is the original format that Laura Ingalls Wilder put down her life’s story in.     They’ve left in the little notes she put for her daughter (who was a more famous author than her mother in their lifetime, and was her mother’s chief editor),  some of which are just incredibly sweet, like where she notes that Rose was named for the prairie roses they found on the homestead in South Dakota.     The story was reordered, and embellished a bit in some cases, to make the Little House books.

There are also more foot notes than you can shake a stick at, that give you background information on just about anything you could possibly desire – they tracked down every person that was mentioned though census information, if they could.      Any possible historical detail was chased down, if they could.     It’s like footnote porn:  you get about three pages of notes to one page of text.

The footnotes also talk about why things were changed for the more fictionalized version that become the books.     It’s a really fascinating look into the writing process.       I have a much greater appreciation for those books, having read this one.

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