Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Prairie Girl: The life of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Prairie Girl: The life of Laura Ingalls Wilder

William Anderson
Illustrator:  Renee Graef 
For ages 7 to 10
HarperCollins, 2004   ISBN: 0064421333

"Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm." These were the words in a song that Laura's Pa sang to her when she was a very little girl and living in the little log cabin in the big woods of Wisconsin. Pa very much wanted to have a farm out west, on the prairies where there was an open sky and where he wouldn't have to cut down tree after tree to clear the land. He got his wish in Kansas and the family was very happy in their little house on the prairie. Unfortunately they could not stay there and the Ingalls family began a series of moves which would only end some years later, and many hardships later, in De Smet in the Dakota Territory.

For a young reader this book is fascinating because we discover that Laura Ingalls Wilder's family did a lot more adventuring than we read about in her famous books. The Ingalls traveled even more then we thought, trying to find the right place to settle and to build a new life. To and fro the Ingalls family went in their little covered wagon. Always though, Pa was restless and eager to try farming out west, always west. Laura too had this love of the open spaces and the huge dome skies of the prairie. She never cared for town life. For Ma Ingalls though, this constant moving was a trial. She wanted a home, a house that was safe and warm with a door and glass windows. She wanted her daughters to go to school and church. It was for Ma's sake that the family finally settled down in De Smet in the Dakota Territory.

As we read this wonderful biography for younger readers, we learn that there was a baby brother whose tiny grave had to be left behind on the prairie. We discover that the hardship did not end for Laura in De Smet but continued into her adult life when she married Almanzo Wilder and became a farmer's wife. The two young people lost their home to fire, their baby son died, drought dried up their farm, and grasshoppers ate their crops. As a result, Laura, Almanzo and their little daughter Rose went to the Ozarks in Missouri to start afresh.

William Anderson has written an excellent biography for younger readers which tells the true story of one of America's greatest children's book writers. A well known authority on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, William Anderson brings this wonderful woman to life and shows us how Laura had great spirit and courage from the time she was a little girl, and how she never gave up fighting for her dreams and hopes.