Have you ever found a friend in the pages of a book, someone you feel a kinship with? I would say that is one main reason I read: to encounter an author (or a fictional character) with whom I relate on some level. This is not only why I read but also why I write and talk about books.
One of my favorite book-friends is Laura Ingalls Wilder. I met her when I was about 8 years old and at the time related most to her stories in The Banks of Plum Creek, probably because that’s the age Laura is during that part of her life. I was fascinated with her house, which was a dugout or an earth-house. Laura’s daily chore was to sweep her dirt floor. She and her mother dried plums on the grass roof of their house.
Over the last few months my husband and I re-read the Little House Books together. What makes them most interesting to us both is Laura’s sensory description of her life. She tells in detail how her father built the houses, how her mother prepared the foods, and she paints pictures of the prairie grasses and the woods and animals. She is curious, sweet and honest with just a touch of sassiness.
After we finished the Little House books we were interested in more information about Laura and her husband Almanzo. I discovered (rather, I was enlightened by a patron who had discovered) more books she had written and other books about her. On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder (with a setting by Rose Wilder Lane) is a diary account of Laura & Almanzo and their young daughter Rose’s trip to Rocky Ridge Farm where they lived the rest of their lives and where Laura wrote the Little House books. Then there is West From Home edited by Roger Lea MacBride (Rose’s adopted grandson) which is a collection of letters that Laura wrote to Almanzo while she was visiting her adult daughter Rose in San Francisco. The final book of Laura’s writings is called A Little House Sampler. This book contains all different kinds of writings by Laura and also by her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. It contains both fictional short-stories and non-fictional magazine articles as well as speeches. These writings are arranged not in the order in which they were written but in chronological order of the events which they are written about. These books rounded out her entire life for me and now I feel that I have known Laura all her life–from a very young child to a ninety-year-old woman. I am grateful to her for taking the time and energy to give this gift of herself and her life to the world.
Click here for a website that has links to pictures and websites of the different homesites in her stories.
Jesse Lee Harmon is the bookkeeper & library assistant at the Oliver Wolcott Library