Some Things Nancy Tystad Koupal Learned

pioneer-girl-perspectives_frontcoverForgot to mention in my post yesterday on the sesquicentenary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birth a fascinating blog post by Nancy Tystad Koupal, published two days ago on the website for the Pioneer Girl Project and entitled “Some Things I Learned While Editing Pioneer Girl Perspectives.” Of the things Koupal mentions, the one I’m most curious about is the fact that “Rose Wilder Lane had an FBI file.”

What kind of information was in that file? Perhaps we’ll find out when Koupal’s collection of essays, Pioneer Girl Perspectives, is published this spring by South Dakota Historical Society Press.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Sesquicentenary

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born one hundred and fifty years ago today, on 7 February 1867. In celebration of the sesquicentenary of her birth, Wilder’s longtime publisher, HarperCollins, releases today new unjacketed hardcover editions of Little House in the Big WoodsFarmer Boy, and Little House on the Prairie, both individually and as a box set. As I’ve noted about these editions already, they omit Garth Williams’s iconic illustrations but include new introductions by Laura Bush, Ree Drummond, and Patricia MacLachlan.

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Also being released today is the paperback edition of The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by William Anderson, which is a really engrossing read, by the way. Online vendors are listing the new edition of The Little House Book of Wisdom as being delayed by a few weeks, but I did get notification just now that the copy I’d ordered is on its way to me.

Finally, just wanted to draw your attention to a witty Twitter account that announced this morning a set of birthday plans for Wilder’s sesquicentenary:

And so, happy birthday, Laura! And happy birthday, Mrs. Wilder!

UPDATE: Also, Maria Russo’s New York Times article “Finding America, Both Red and Blue, in the ‘Little House’ Books,” published today, provides a timely and nuanced reading of Wilder’s complicated legacy in American culture and beyond, including the elements that act as “one giant hushing of Native American history.” I teach Little House on the Prairie at the university level not in spite of those elements, but because it is important to understand how the books offer readers a view of American society that both includes and excludes.

Announcing Pioneer Girl Perspectives

pioneer-girl-perspectives_frontcoverThe website for The Pioneer Girl Project posted a major update today announcing the forthcoming publication, in May 2017 and by South Dakota Historical Society Press, of an exciting new collection of essays entitled Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal.

As someone who has followed Ingalls Wilder Lane scholarship for well over a decade (and who has made a few modest contributions to the discussion so far), I am thrilled to see these authors take such bold, new approaches to Wilder’s work, especially in light of the recent publication of Wilder’s original first-person memoir.

Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder takes a serious look at Wilder’s working life and at circumstances that developed her points of view. Along the way, authors William T. Anderson, Caroline Fraser, Michael Patrick Hearn, Elizabeth Jameson, Sallie Ketcham, Amy Mattson Lauters, John E. Miller, Paula M. Nelson, and Ann Romines explore the relationship between Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, as well as their path to the Little House novels. Editor Nancy Tystad Koupal also includes an interview with Little House Heritage Trust representative Noel Silverman, who has worked with Wilder’s works for over forty-five years, and annotates Wilder’s 1937 speech about the Little House series given at the Detroit book fair.

This rich source book from these Wilder scholars from across North America will also explore, among other topics, the interplay of folklore in the Little House novels, women’s place on the American frontier, Rose Wilder Lane’s writing career, the strange episode of the Benders in Kansas, Wilder’s midwestern identity, and society’s ideas of childhood.

Animal Adventures and Other Updates

HarperCollins has just released cover art for its reissue of Animal Adventures, the third volume in the Little House Chapter Books series of abridgments that was first published in the late 1990s. This book is scheduled for publication in June 2017, following the reissue of The Adventures of Laura and Jack and Pioneer Sisters in February, as I reported a few months ago. I’m also seeing pre-orders for further reissues in this series: Laura and Nellie in August, Christmas Stories in September, and School Days in December. That makes me wonder if HarperCollins will reissue only these five books, given that School Days was first published as book 4, Laura and Nellie as book 5, and Christmas Stories as book 10, and presumably they will be renumbered for this new set. Time will tell!

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Given this revival of the Little House Chapter Books series, I wondered if HarperCollins had planned to reissue some of the My First Little House picture books that were first released alongside the Chapter Books. Cover art has not been released yet, but appearing now on the HarperCollins website is a book entitled A Little House Picture Book Treasury: Six Stories of Life on the Prairie, scheduled for publication in September 2017 and apparently containing the following texts first released individually: Going to TownCountry FairA Little Prairie HouseSugar SnowWinter Days in the Big Woods, and Christmas in the Big Woods. No word yet on whether Renée Graef’s illustrations will be retained.

In other news, Caroline Fraser, who published an annotated edition of Wilder’s nine books in the Library of America series, will be publishing a new book in November 2017 entitled Prairie Fires: The Life and Times of Laura Ingalls Wilder, billed as “the first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie book series”:

Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls—the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true story of her life has never been fully told. The Little House books were not only fictionalized but brilliantly edited, a profound act of myth-making and self-transformation. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series—masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books and uncovering the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life.

More news on this book—including cover art—once it becomes available.

Marta McDowell’s A Wilder World

Marta McDowell’s A Wilder World has just become available for pre-order on Amazon.com! The book is scheduled for publication by Timber Press in September 2017.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series chronicled frontier life in the late 1860s. The classic books are both a coming of age story based on Wilder’s life and a reflection of the pioneer spirit of the time. They are also deeply rooted in the natural world. The plants, animals, and landscapes are so integral to the stories, they almost become their own characters. A Wilder World, by New York Times bestselling author Marta McDowell, beautifully explores Laura Ingalls Wilder’s deep relationship to the landscape and illuminates a crucial aspect of the pioneer experience. Featuring the original art by Helen Sewell and Garth Williams and historical and contemporary photographs, A Wilder World is a must-read companion to the Little House books and a must-have treasure for the millions of readers enchanted by Laura’s wild and beautiful life.

I will post cover art and further information about this upcoming book once it becomes available.

New Little House Editions in German

Recently, while looking for British editions of the Little House books, I came across this new set of German editions of six of the books by Ueberreuter, all under the title Unsere kleine Farm (“Our Little Farm”), which was also the German title of the Little House on the Prairie television series.

Included in this set are books with the following subtitles:

  • Laura im großen Wald (“Laura in the Big Forest”)
  • Laura in der Prärie (“Laura in the Prairie”)
  • Laura und ihre Freunde (“Laura and Her Friends”)
  • Laura am Silbersee (“Laura at Silver Lake”)
  • Laura und der lange Winter (“Laura and the Long Winter”)
  • Laura in der kleinen Stadt (“Laura in the Small Town”)

Not included in this set are Farmer BoyThese Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years, even though they have translated into German before.

Back to Little House

In 2004, while I was working on a Ph.D. in English at McMaster University in Ontario, I launched the Little House Archive as a subset of my personal website (along with a site devoted to another interest of mine, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew). Although there were (and are still) many excellent Little House resources on the web, particularly from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s publisher and from associations dedicated to promoting her legacy through tourist sites and online communities, I found that most of these sites tended to be less interested in academic scholarship or were more focused on one aspect of her cultural footprint: her life, her work, or the popular television series. Given that my interest in Ingalls Wilder Lane Studies has embraced multiple (and even competing) versions of Wilder’s life in the form of adaptations and extensions as well as the books Wilder wrote, I continued to see the value of my website as a resource. Unfortunately, I lost the bulk of this site during a migration to a new website hosting provider earlier this year. But my teaching and research interests continue to include Wilder—I taught Little House on the Prairie twice in children’s literature courses this year—and this seemed to be the right time to relaunch the site in anticipation of some fascinating new developments that are in the works for 2017, the 150th anniversary of Wilder’s birth.

In February 2017, HarperCollins will reissue Little House in the Big WoodsFarmer Boy, and Little House on the Prairie as unjacketed hardcovers with new forewords by Laura Bush, Ree Drummond, and Patricia MacLachlan, respectively, along with a trade paperback edition of The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by William Anderson, and a new edition of The Little House Book of Wisdom. Not only that, but this spring, HarperCollins will reissue some of its abridgments of Wilder’s books that were first published in the 1990s, starting with The Adventures of Laura & Jack and Pioneer Sisters in April. Also this spring, the team behind the annotated edition of Wilder’s initial first-person adult memoir, Pioneer Girl, will be publishing a collection of essays entitled Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder.

And in July, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association will host its next Wilder conference, Little Houses, Mighty Legacy: Celebrating 150 Years of Laura Ingalls Wilder, held in Springfield, Missouri, fifty miles west of Wilder’s home in Mansfield. From the call for papers:

“LauraPalooza” embodies the community spirit, work ethic, and social interaction embraced by the Ingalls and Wilder families. Academic presentations mingle with dime socials and spelling bees. Join scholars, writers, and professionals who specialize in Ingalls and Wilder literary, historical, and cultural impacts.

The deadline for proposals is coming up soon, on 6 December 2016, the anniversary of the birth of Rose Wilder Lane. This conference follows similar events organized by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association in 2010, 2012, and 2015.

These publication and conference events demonstrate the continued relevance and appeal of Wilder’s books, in terms of sales, critical conversation, and community engagement. I look forward to continuing my investigation of all things Ingalls Wilder Lane!