Cover Art for Upcoming Titles

Cover art for a number of upcoming titles has been released in the past few weeks: the fourth and fifth volumes of the rebooted Little House Chapters Books series (Laura & Nellie, due out in August; Christmas Stories, due out in September); Sarah Miller’s novel Caroline: Little House, Revisited (due out in September); Marta McDowell’s book-length study A Wilder World (due out in September); and a reprint of William Anderson’s edited book Laura’s Album, first published in 1998.

Sarah Miller Revisits Caroline Ingalls

Coming in September 2017: Caroline: Little House, Revisited, an adult novel that reimagines Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie from the perspective of Laura’s mother, Caroline Ingalls. From the HarperCollins website:

In this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

More information on this new book will be posted as it becomes available!

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.

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!

animaladventures2017

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.

Publication of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl

It’s been announced recently that the South Dakota State Historical Society Press is preparing an annotated edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoir “Pioneer Girl,” with plans to publish the book in June 2013. It’s being prepared by Pamela Smith Hill, author of the exceptional biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, which I found filled with wonderful new insights and information about Wilder, her families, and her communities.

I started reading Wilder’s books as a boy, around the same time that I watched reruns of the TV show Little House on the Prairie on the nearest CBS affiliate. Unlike a number of readers of Wilder’s texts who detested the TV show due to the huge liberties taken with the story, I found both Little House worlds equally interesting, in spite of the differences in terms of medium and storytelling style (also, alas, the books did not have extreme close-ups of Pa crying). Moreover, I’ve continued to be interested in both adapted texts and adaptations as an adult. The TV show Little House on the Prairie remains a guilty pleasure, and I confess to enjoying the wide range of parodies and mash-ups I’ve seen on YouTube. My research in the field of Ingalls-Wilder-Lane studies hasn’t been extensive, except for a few review articles and a website that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but this fall I’ll be publishing a chapter entitled “Our Home on Native Land: Adapting and Readapting Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie” in my latest collection of essays, Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature. (I went over the copy-edited version not too long ago and am currently waiting for proofs. The book should be out in August or September.)

This week I started rereading Wilder’s novel Farmer Boy (the one about Almanzo), partly because I haven’t reread it in ages and partly because I’m trying to make sense of a recent sequel entitled Farmer Boy Goes West. I’ve also had a blast reading recent memoirs by Melissa Gilbert, Alison Arngrim, and Melissa Anderson, three of the actors from the TV show. I always enjoy knowing more about the people behind texts or shows that I like—even (or especially) aspects that reveal them to be real human beings.

Anyway, I’m glad Pioneer Girl will finally be available in book form. I read parts of one draft on microfilm, and it was enough to convince me that it’s a significantly different story than the one told in Wilder’s autofiction. These differences are important, especially because of the misconception that Wilder’s books are straightforward autobiography or memoir. They are, in a sense, but without insisting on total historical accuracy. In the final analysis, they are not history, but story.

Wilder’s literary and cultural legacy shows no signs of slowing down. Her books are about to be reissued in the Library of America, in two paperback volumes and in a boxed set of hardcovers, both of which are definitely on my to-buy list. Her (largely negative) depiction of Native Americans is complex and complicated (at least to an extent), and it needs to be discussed more, especially since the novel Little House on the Prairie is still being bought for children. And while there have been numerous attempts to keep the story going by devising all kinds of prequels, sequels, interquels, sidequels, abridgments, and activity books, none of these offshoots—except for the TV show Little House on the Prairie—has endured. It’s Wilder’s own story that continues to be read, reread, and discussed as a particular slice of U.S. colonial history and children’s literature. And so having access to Wilder’s original first-person memoir, which she transformed into a set of children’s books after being unable to sell it, will add tremendously to our understanding of how this purportedly “true” story came to be shaped and reshaped.

A website for the Pioneer Girl Project has also been launched, and I for one look forward to seeing more details about this book as they become available.

UPDATE: Speaking of Laura Ingalls Wilder, my friend Melanie Fishbane has just published a guest blog entry on the excellent website Beyond Little House, which is the go-to place for everything Wilder-related. She discusses the chapter “Almanzo Says Good-By” from These Happy Golden Years and even throws in the weird-but-fascinating TV movie Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, where the keyword “true” definitely belongs in quotation marks (but it’s fascinating nonetheless).

UPDATE 2: I guess I should mention that Mel and I actually drove to Dearborn, Michigan in November 2010 to see a Laura Ingalls Wilder exhibit there. You can read more about it in Mel’s blog post, where I’m the unidentified “friend.”