Review: The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books by Marta McDowell

Timber Press, 2017. Hardcover, 390 pages.Cover: The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder

With accurate and often vivid descriptions, McDowell recreated the places where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and that readers know from the Little House books.  In the first part of the book, each chapter provides a history of each place as well as a natural history description of the flora and fauna located there.  Often, the source of this material is Wilder’s own writing, whether it was her memoir Pioneer Girl, her novels, her numerous newspaper and magazine articles, or letters written to family and friends.  Other sources include the writings of Rose Wilder Lane, Almanzo Wilder, and Carrie Ingalls Swanzey.  McDowell also provides an overall historical perspective to each location and its time in history.

The second part of the book was filled with reference materials.  There was a chapter about visiting the various Laura Ingalls Wilder historic sites, including must-sees and that natural resources still there.  Another chapter featured a list of all the flora Wilder would have seen it her lifetime and where plus whether or not it was one of the many demonstration plants at the Rocky Ridge Farm site in Mansfield, Missouri.  This section also listed all of the resources used when penning this book and additional further reading.

Throughout the book, insights were provided that expanded on the Little House novels.  With its abundance of photographs and illustrations, readers could finally see what Wilder saw and that should help in understanding the various flora and fauna in the novels.  McDowell also traveled to many of the places to capture the images and at times interjects her own experiences that were similar to Laura in special asides to supplement the narrative.  After reading this, I think I need to reread the novels of my youth and see if it has helped to broaden my understanding of the time and place.

Do you think you will read this supplementary work?  Have you read similar works that combine history, natural history, and literature?  If so, what and how did you feel about it?

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder  will be released on September 20, 2017.  My review copy was gratefully provided by Netgalley.


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