Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House in the Big Woods (1932)

Laura Ingalls Wilder portrait

Book for children is written by former South Dakota woman

Author is sister of patient now convalescing in Huron Hospital; “Little House in the Big Woods” is pioneer story of Wisconsin

Being ill in a hospital has its compensations when one may travel into the woods and live the childhood days of long ago. At least Mrs. N. W. Dow [Grace Pearl Ingalls Dow], Manchester, finds it so, for a few weeks ago she was brought to a Huron hospital to receive treatment, and her sister, Mrs, D. N. Swanzey [Caroline Celestia “Carrie” Ingalls Swanzey] of Keystone came to be with her.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder - First EditionThen came “The Little House in the Big Woods,” a book just off the press, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a sister of Mrs. Dow and Mrs. Swanzey.

The story tells of 63 years ago, long before Mrs. Dow was born, when the Ingalls family lived in a log cabin on the edge of the big woods in Wisconsin. With Mrs. Swanzey residing, and probably stopping to add reminiscences of her own, Mrs. Dow was taken back to the childhood days of her sisters.

South Dakota pioneers

The Ingalls family moved from Wisconsin to De Smet, S.D., in 1879, where C. P. Ingalls farmed. Here Mrs. Dow was born. The author of the book, Laura Ingalls, married and moved to Mansfield, Mo., where she now lives, and where she wrote this book, her first.

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“The Little House in the Big Woods” is written for children from 8 to 10 years of age, but appeals to adults for its refreshingly genuine and lifelike quality.

The little cabin stands miles from any neighbors and remote from any settlement. One learns how life was lived and gets a vivid picture of the hardships and the difficulties, as well as of the joys and adventures, of those early pioneer days. It will give boys and girls of today a real knowledge of one phase of pioneer life.

Face hardships

In those days, and in such remote parts of the country, each home was, of necessity, virtually self-sufficient. Each family depended on the crops raised in the clearing, on the food produced by domestic animals and wild animals, birds and fish, caught and killed by the father of the family, and canned, stored, salted down or smoked by the rest of the family for the time when they would be snowed in.

Life was very exciting when Christmas meant homemade toys and everyone doubling up with everyone else in order to fit two families into small space; when the “sugaring down” season meant that all the neighbors collected for miles around to attend the festivities, and when bears and wolves were not uncommon.

Caroline and Charles IngallsThe characters are very much alive, and the portrait of Laura’s father, especially, is drawn with loving care and reality. The illustrations, done by Helen Sewell, have charm and catch the spirit of the books. The frontispiece of the book is a reproduction of an old daguerreotype made when Mr. and Mrs Ingalls were married.

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Daughter is author

Mrs. Wilder’s daughter is a well-known American writer, Rose Wilder Lane. Her travel books are especially significant. Mrs. Lane has traveled extensively and knows five languages. Besides her shore stories, which have appeared in Harpers, Cosmopolitan, Red Book, and Ladies Home Journal, she has written more than 15 books. Some of these may be obtained at the Heron library, and are “Hill Billy,” “Cindy,” “He Was a Man,” “The Peaks of Shola.” Mrs. Lane writes of the Ozark mountains, where her childhood days were passed.

The Ingalls family hove always been interested writing, Mrs. Swanzey had considerable experience on newspapers in South Dakota, and Mrs. Wilder has written for many farm magazines, although “The Little House in the Big Woods” is her first published book.

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