The trouble with loving classics is the knowledge that when you finish a series or have read the entire works of a certain author, you know there will be no more. I have felt that loss with many authors like Austen, L’Engle, Lewis, and Montgomery. And now that my kids enjoy longer and longer stories, I’m feeling the loss all over again with the childhood classics I’m introducing to them but know will not magically reproduce.
Thankfully for one such classic–the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder–I don’t have to be completely bereft. There is no shortage of children’s books about prairie and pioneer life though, for me, one rises to the top and it’s also a series like Little House. Plus, in the last six months, three fantastic books have been published that either have similar charm or take on the classic stories with a new perspective.
If you, like me, were completely captivated by the adventures of the Ingalls’ family, don’t miss these books that stir the book soul in a similar way.
Books for Grown Up Fans of Little House
Caroline: Little House, revisited by Sarah Miller
“How, she wondered, could she learn to find such ease at being wholly untethered?”
Caroline gives a beautiful, adult perspective on events recounted by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the beloved series, Little House on the Prairie. Sarah Miller specifically focuses on the Ingalls’ first journey West from Wisconsin to Kansas by covered wagon through the eyes of Caroline (Ma).
As a fan of the Little House series, it was fun to re-read the Ingalls’ adventures from a different perspective, but I was not expecting to find so many moving reflections on womanhood, motherhood, marriage, change and the seasons. I kept flipping back to the end pages to write quotes to remember and think on later.
Caroline is a great addition to any Little House collection but will stand alone with its lovely writing and engaging story. (Please note: some scenes in this book make it appropriate for older/married readers.)
A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert
Before encountering this book, I had no idea about the deception surrounding the authorship of the Little House series. In a note to the reader, Susan Wittig Albert explains the complicated relationship between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, that produced eight of these beloved books. Laura had the story to tell and Rose had the writing skills and publishing connections to make it happen, but their collaboration was hushed and rife with tension.
A Wilder Rose presents a fictionalized version of their true, and troubled, teamwork. The story jumps back and forth between a 12-year span (1928-1939), following Rose’s story as she loses her savings in the stock market crash that launched the Great Depression. It’s a bit melancholy and slower-paced, but I was drawn in by Rose’s perspective on her mother’s life and the stories it inspired.
Books for Little House Fans of All Ages
The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired The Little House Books by Marta McDowell
The natural world is as much a character in the Little House books as Laura herself. As the story progresses, readers see both family and land grow and change, struggle and adapt. Their lives were deeply dependent on the varying ecosystems they encountered as they moved from state to territory and back again. In this lovely and fascinating book, Marta McDowell explores the places and plants of, specifically, Laura’s life.
McDowell breaks the book into two sections: “A Life on The Land” intertwines Laura’s life story with the Wilder’s garden, plants, and farm interests and “A Wilder Garden” is a horticultural tour of Wilderesque gardens across America as well as a guide on how to create one in your own backyard. The hefty book is peppered with maps, paintings, sketches, prints, and photos that make the engaging information even more interesting and beautiful. McDowell has, again, created characters out of the landscapes found in the Little House books. The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a must (and would make a fantastic gift) for any Little House fan or budding botanist.
Love, Mary Elisabeth by Christy Martenson
Set in the Pacific Northwest, this charming novel is reminiscent of the Dear America books I so loved in grade school. Instead of diary entries, Love, Mary Elisabeth is comprised of letters written by eleven-year-old Mary Elisabeth and a few of her family members. Mary Elisabeth is a city girl from Seattle who goes to live with relatives on a farm while her mother recovers from tuberculosis and her Papa works in the shipyards. Sometimes I find young narrators to be grating, but Mary Elisabeth’s youth is full of believable innocence without being saccharine.
Christy has captured the joy of a childhood spent navigating the triumphs and trials of country life that is so captivating in classics like the Little House series (or Understood Betsy and Up A Road Slowly). And similar to the events in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, most of the adventures found in Love, Mary Elisabeth are true-life accounts from Christy’s family. I can’t wait to read this gem with my kids.
Sarah, Plain and Tall saga by Patricia MacLachlan
There’s a reason Sarah, Plain and Tall won a Newbery Medal. I recently re-read it and was kind of shocked at the tight, poetic writing and moving nuance of the storyline, all of which I missed as a child. Young Anna narrates the events that lead to Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton’s arrival at her and her family’s prairie home. Sarah has answered an advertisement in the paper to be mom to Anna and her little brother Caleb and wife to their papa. She is whimsical, hard-working and can sing, but misses the sea and her family back in Maine.
It’s the mark of a talented author who can transport you to the prairie and make you feel delight, sorrow, fear, and hope all in 58 pages. And then you can begin on the four other books about the Witting family:
Sarah, Plain and Tall is a must read (or re-read if you haven’t read it in a while) for young and old alike.
What books would you recommend for fans of Little House on the Prairie?
Emily C. Gardner
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Here at Club31Women, we recognize that not everyone has the same taste or point of view on books or movies, but we offer these short reviews for your consideration. Our hope is that you will find something new and wonderful on this list of recommended reading!
~ Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women
Emily C. Gardner is a Southern California native transplanted to the Northeast with her youth pastor husband and two sweet kiddos. She's a woman of many enthusiasms, which these days include reading, real food, and running. In her fringe hours, Emily channels her creative energy into curating book flights on her blog and sharing photos of her current read. Connect with Emily on Instagram and Pinterest.