Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved Little House books chronicle her childhood in the late 1800s on the American frontier. Now readers can learn about the real Laura, including events she did not write about in her classic stories, in this engaging and accessible chapter-book biography.
About the Author
William Anderson is a historian, educator, and author of twenty-five books of biography, travel, and history. His groundbreaking research on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books led to many HarperCollins titles, including Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography, Laura Ingalls Wilder Country, and A Little House Sampler. He has also written for Travel & Leisure, the Saturday Evening Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and many other national magazines. Anderson is a frequent speaker at conferences, schools, and libraries. He makes his home in Michigan.
Renée Graef received her bachelor's degree in art from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is the illustrator of numerous titles in the Little House publishing program, as well as Rodgers and Hammerstein's My Favorite Things and E.T.A Hoffman's The Nutcracker, adapted by Janet Schulman. She lives in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, with her husband and two children.
Read an Excerpt
The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Log Cabin in the Woods
After supper, when the sky grew dark and flames danced in the fireplace inside the little log cabin, Laura Ingalls would ask, "Pa, will you please play the fiddle?"
The jolly songs Pa played on his fiddle made Laura want to dance and sing. Mary, Laura's older sister, loved Pa's music too, and so did Ma, their quiet, gentle mother. While they all listened, their big bulldog, Jack, dozed in the doorway.
Too soon, Laura would hear the clock strike the hour of eight.
"Goodness, Charles," Ma would say. "It is time these children were asleep."
As Ma tucked the girls under the cozy quilts, Pa would play just one more song, his blue eyes twinkling.
Laura and her family lived during the pioneer days of America. This was a time when many Americans left the East to find new homes in the West. When Laura was growing up during the 1860s and early 1870s, there were no telephones or electric lights. Most people traveled by horse and wagon. Many families like Laura's lived in log cabins. Pa had built their cabin in the big woods of Wisconsin, and it was the first home Laura remembered. Pa and Ma came there to live soon after their marriage in 1860. Mary was born in the log cabin in the woods in 1865, the year the Civil War ended. Laura was born there two years later, on February 7, 1867.
By 1868, Pa and Ma had decided to leave the cabin in the woods in search of a new home. The Wisconsin woods were filling up with new settlers, and as hunting and trapping increased, wild animals became scarce. Pa knew that west of theMississippi River lay vast stretches of open prairie, and that was where he wanted to go.
Pa sang a song with his fiddle that went ''Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm." Laura knew her uncles Henry and Tom and Peter and George, but she did not know an Uncle Sam. Pa told Laura that Uncle Sam was really the United States government. The government had so much land to spare that it would give Pa a farm just for settling on the land. Pa said this was called homesteading.
The family traveled by covered wagon across Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and finally into Kansas. After many weeks of travel, they drove through the frontier town of Independence and continued on for a few more miles until Pa decided to stop. There was nothing around them except for the sea of tall prairie grass waving in the wind and a big blue bowl of sky overhead.
The family's first priority was to build a house. Pa cut trees from creek banks nearby and built a one-room log cabin. Then he built a stable for the horses. Next he plowed up the prairie land and planted crops and a garden, and he dug a well for fresh water.
There were only a few settlers living near the Ingalls cabin. Most of the neighbors were Osage Indians. They lived in big camps because this was their territory. The government had moved them to Kansas many years before, when pioneers crowded their hunting grounds in Missouri. Osage tribesmen rode their ponies across the prairie and sometimes stopped at the cabin. They always seemed hungry and welcomed the corn bread Ma gave them.
On a hot day in August, Pa took Laura and Mary on a long walk across the prairie. Jack followed them. Laura was just three and a half, but she never forgot that day. The Indians were away hunting, and Pa wanted to show Laura and Mary their empty camp. For part of the walk across the prairie, Laura rode on Jack's broad back. At the camp they saw holes in the ground where tent poles had been and black spots where campfires had burned. In the dust Laura and Mary spied colored beads. They hunted for those left-behind beads until each had a handful.
When they arrived home, there was a surprise better than beads. A neighbor woman had come over to visit with Ma before they left, and now there was a third person in the cabin—a tiny newborn baby wrapped in a quilt. Laura looked at the little red-faced baby who snuggled next to Ma. Ma told Mary and Laura that this was their new sister, Caroline, whom they would call Carrie. In the family Bible, Ma wrote Carrie's birthdate: August 3, 1870.
Soon after baby Carrie was born, the prairie became less peaceful. Laura heard Indian war cries during the night. The Osages were unhappy that people like the Ingallses had settled on their land. The Osages had agreed to sell their land, but the American government in Washington had not yet paid them for their territory. Night after night, the Indians chanted in their camps and debated what to do. Their angry cries floated across the prairie and frightened Laura, even though Pa was nearby and Jack guarded the cabin door.
When a treaty with the Indians was finally settled, the Osage tribe left the prairie. Laura watched with Ma and Pa and Mary as a long line of Osage men, women, and children on foot and on horseback moved to another reservation farther west.
Not long afterward, Pa and Ma received a letter from Wisconsin. The man who had bought their farm could not pay and wanted Pa to take it back. Even though the prairie was now peaceful, Pa and Ma decided to leave. They traveled all the way back home to Wisconsin, to the house where Mary and Laura had been born. Although Laura was only four years old, she never forgot Kansas, and Pa and Ma and Mary always told her stories of their first travels.
Back in Wisconsin, the cabin was shaded by tall trees instead of wide, open prairie skies. When Laura looked . . .Prairie Girl
The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Copyright © by William Anderson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>
Table of Contents
|Chapter 1||Log Cabin in the Woods||1|
|Chapter 2||Pioneering on Plum Creek||13|
|Chapter 3||Back-Trailers to Iowa||22|
|Chapter 4||Homesteading in Dakota||31|
|Chapter 5||Laura, Manly, and Rose||39|
|Chapter 6||Pioneering in the Ozarks||48|
|Chapter 7||Writing in Orange-Covered Tablets||56|
|Chapter 8||The Children's Favorite||64|
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