In this episode we discuss the series of books Little House on the Prairie and several companion products to add to your experience with the series.
Books Discussed in This Episode:
Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids.
Today. I wanted to talk about one of my favorite sets of books, Little House on the Prairie books. And I know they’re very popular with many of you, and this time of year, for some reason, makes me feel like, you know, family gathering around. And it just reminds me of when we would read the Little House books and the family atmosphere throughout the books. And so I thought I would share some great resources that you can use to make this an even more meaningful time together as a family. If you’re homeschooling, of course, these are like essential. If you’re homeschooling in the United States, if you’re homeschooling in Canada, I know most of my Canadian friends actually read Anne of Green Gables like we read Little House on the Prairie here, which I thought was really interesting. And that’s another great series of books. In fact, I probably should do an episode on series of books that you can read with your children as a read aloud time as a family, that would probably include, Oh, it would definitely include Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, The Boxcar Children, Chronicles of Narnia, and I like The Magic Treehouse. And I know some people don’t want magic stuff when they’re reading to their kids, but I love The Magic Treehouse series as well. We have it in both Chinese and English. So those are some good series of books for middle elementary through upper elementary even that you could read with your kids. And if you’re reading to your children, I think even starting in first grade, most of these would be fascinating to them. First of all, of course, we have to have the series, the Little House on the Prairie series and they have a new set of books that you can get where it’s just in two volumes. That would be really nice to have the most common set of Little House books that we would find today written by Laura Ingalls, Wilder and illustrated by Garth Williams. Those are the ones we’ve had for quite a few years.
If your children are still picture book age, you’re not quite ready to jump into chapter books together, then I would recommend A Little House Picture Book Treasury, which is Six Stories of Life on the Prairie adapted from Laura Ingles Wilder’s books, rewritten by Renee Graef. These are available in one volume for the six stories, and it’s a really pretty book. The pictures are inspired by Garth Williams. So they’re very similar to the ones that are in the other books.
For digging a little deeper into the Little House lifestyle–Annette Whipple, which is this wonderful writer. I was so blessed to get to talk with her at a recent conference. She’s very knowledgeable, and she writes a lot of educational books. She has written The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. And it’s by Annette Whipple. This is the first book I would recommend if you’re going to be teaching the Little House books or you just want to embellish your time of reading together, to dig a little deeper into the culture, to talk with your kids about what it was like to live during that time, and to answer more questions or to try some recipes or crafts that they did. This book is what you need to get. It’s got 75 activities in it. It goes chapter by chapter, through all of the Little House series books. It’s a great companion to the series. Then there are several books that I recommend if you want to go even further, but if you’re only getting one supplemental book, this is the one I would recommend. And that’s The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide by Annette Whipple. Let me give you an example of what she gives you within this great resource. In Chapter One in the “Dig Deeper” section, it says, “Little House in the Big Woods, which is the first volume in the series takes place in 1871 to 1870 so about 150 years ago. On the opening page Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that there were no houses near the Ingles’ family. Though they couldn’t see any homes from their cabin. They did have neighbors. Relatives lived nearby. They could even walk to their houses.” So these are bulleted points that just give you a little bit more information. And that goes chapter by chapter through all of the books. It says, “Salting meat preserved it by keeping germs from growing. It also gave the meat extra flavor.” And then, “Laura Ingalls Wilder was born seven miles or 11 kilometers Northwest of Pepin, Wisconsin in 1867. Pepin is still a small village today.” Then she has a paragraph on butchering time and explains that. And then it goes on to Chapter Two. So it just gives you these little snippets of information that kind of enriches what we’re reading and helps us to understand what we are reading in the books. There’s pictures throughout the book, diagrams to do the different activities. The second part of this book deals with Laura’s adult life. And like I said, in the first part of the book she’s talking about “Live like Laura.” Then there’s a section “Live like Almanzo” and talks about his childhood and how to live like a little boy in pioneer times, which I appreciate that we can cover both. And then the last part covers her adult life and takes you to the different parts of where she lived in each book, where they’re living in the different stories, and talks about those areas in the United States.
So then part two is “Life Beyond Little House,” and she has a quote here from Laura Ingalls Wilder. “I Hate to write the end of the story. No, not the end, no story is ever ended.” I love that this starts with The First Four Years when they were in Dakota Territory. She wrote this paragraph that I think is very interesting in this section. It says, “A different Laura? Laura seems different at the beginning of the first four than she did during These Happy Golden Years. With Laura’s changes, the tone or feeling of the story changes too. Laura is optimistic in These Happy Golden Years. She trusts Almanzo, especially as a farmer and horseman. In the other Little House books, Laura was happy to help Pa with farm work. She didn’t have to. Ma might have preferred that Laura not work in the fields yet. Laura helped care for the animals and worked in the fields during harvest. The character named Laura in The First Four Years said she didn’t want to marry a farmer. She was concerned about the hard work of farming and lack of financial stability. Remember The First Four Years wasn’t written as part of The Little House series; it was a new story. Like the other books, it was somewhat fictionalized. We don’t know if Laura Ingalls Wilder changed the main character’s view and tone for something her adult readers would like, or if it reflected her personal experience and feelings.” So that’s a quote from the second part of this book. And I think that’s interesting. So in this section where it says “Live like Laura,” it’s “Grow a Geranium” and teaches you how to plant a geranium, cook cornbread, and those kinds of things. We know that Laura loved gardening. There is a whole book about gardening based on Laura Ingles Wilder’s life. But I haven’t read that one. If you search, you can find many, many books that you can look at that might be geared more toward what you’re interested in working on with your kids. But this book is a pretty thorough reference tool that you could use. And like I said, I think it would be the first one I would recommend buying as a companion to the actual books.
Now there are some other books that are a lot of fun. This one’s a little bit older, but you can actually get it on Kindle Freetime Unlimited if you’re signed up for that with your kids. It’s called Searching for Laura Ingalls: A Reader’s Journey by Kathryn Lasky, and Maribel Knight is the little girl in the book and she helped write it. She’s telling the story first-person from her perspective, and Christopher Knight, her father, took the pictures for the book, and they go on a journey to the different places where Laura lived, and she gets to see and experience some of the things that she reads about in the story, including getting leeches on her legs in Plum Creek. It’s just a really neat book.
Another one that is really nice is called The World of Little House. And this is by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson. And this book also includes a lot of different crafts and lifestyle activities that they would do during that time. It gives you maps of the area and shows you just all kinds of things about life during the Little House period of time. It’s a good companion book. It’s very pretty. I mean, it’s done really nicely like a keepsake book or a coffee table book. And so this is a really nice one. If you get it, I would advise getting the hard cover just because it is such a nicely done book for being kind of a special keepsake volume.
The next one is also a keepsake type book. And this one is called Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder compiled by William Anderson. This one is about her life, and it’s like a visual biography. It takes you through her whole life into her adulthood and has a lot of photographs from the period of time and is like having a personal scrapbook or photo album if Laura had put one together for us to have. This one is really beautifully done. Again, it’s like a keepsake volume. It would make a great gift for Christmas. And so this one, I would also get in the hardcover if you get it because it is such a beautiful volume.
There are several other fun books that go along with the series. One I have is My Little House Songbook. And this one is illustrated by Holly Jones, adapted from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s just that it’s a songbook of some of the songs that are mentioned in the Little House series. You can only buy this one used, but you can get it fairly inexpensively. And it’s really cute.
Cookbooks–There are so many choices of cookbooks. If you want to get those, the same series that has the songbook also has a cookbook. It is still available. Recipes are by Amy Kotler. And again, it’s illustrated by Holly Jones inspired by Garth Williams, but we also have recipes in some of the other books I’ve mentioned. Plus there are several other cookbooks you can even find, but I also wanted to mention my friend’s books and she’s the president for inspire Christian Writers. I used to be on their board. And if you know anything about inspire, then you know, Robynne Elizabeth Miller. She’s a writer and speaker and coach and teacher. She has written several books about Little House on the Prairie. She has several books of recipes. One is Super Simple, Sweet Pioneer Recipes: Five Ingredients or Less. And then she has Slightly Strange Sweet Pioneer Recipes that Are Delicious, Slightly Strange, Savory Pioneer Recipes that Actually Taste Good. And then it seems like she has another one too that has five ingredients or less recipes. So she has all of those available. And one of them is actually on Kindle Unlimited right now. So you can read it for free if you want to get a picture of some of the recipes and what they’re like. She clearly explains how to follow the recipe like if it involves canning, how to do that. And so they’re great little books, Robynne Elizabeth Miller has also written The Three Faces of Nellie, which is based on the research that she has done. She’s been researching the real people who were in Little House on the Prairie books. And so this wouldn’t be for your children necessarily. This would be more for an adult reader who wants to learn more. And then The Mouth of Ma is another one, The Search for Caroline Quiner Ingalls. And this is about Laura’s mom. These two volumes that Robin wrote are just really interesting books for doing a little more research on your own and learning a little bit more about how Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote. And then she has one more book it’s called nonfiction Memoir or Fiction: Dissecting Works of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This one she did as part of her MFA degree is more of an educational look at the works that she did. It says, “Few American authors have produced a significant body of multi-genre work, which has then spawned a vast amount of biographical and historical documentation corroborating or disputing that work. Laura Ingalls Wilder; however, is one of those authors because of this rare convergence. Wilder offers a glimpse into the complexities of semi-autobiographical prose.” So this is more a look at the writing, and I haven’t read this book yet. So I’m going just by what it says on the website, but I know Robynne, and I know that she researches in great detail and is a brilliant person. So I think it would be a fascinating read. I have it on my wishlist to read and just haven’t gotten to it yet.
Another book I’d like to recommend is called Devotionals with Laura: Laura Ingalls’ Favorite Bible Selections by Dan L white. And this is a very nice book that shows the scriptures that she highlighted in her Bible, the notes that she wrote about different passages. It’s just a wonderful little devotional book and shows more the writing for an adult than for children part of Laura’s life. Shares her heart and how she felt in her commitment with God. It’s really nice. That one I would highly recommend.
If you’re interested in reading the Little House books with your kids and passing that along to them, what’s so wonderful about it is sharing what life was like for the pioneers who began to settle America and came here from Europe and all over the world. And it shows some truly American historical things that, that I think are important to share with our kids. And I think it also shows our kids what we have today and how much life has changed. What I loved about the Little House on the Prairie books, for me personally as a child, is it kind of sparked that pioneer spirit in me. And so when God called us to go and to do missions, when we were called to move far away from our family at different times, it was like there was a part of me that was like, “Okay, we can do this.” Part of that was because I had read all of these books as a child. And they had inspired me to know that we can face hardships. As long as we stick together as a family, we can go to new places and be brave and experience new things. And I love that we can inspire our kids through the books we read with them to explore life and to face challenges and to not be afraid of whatever God calls them to do. Because we’ve got the stories, in a sense, the testimonies of other people and what they have lived through and what they have experienced. And it can help inspire our kids. One of my daughter’s friends had a Little House birthday party. They had no electricity in the house for the party, and they did pioneer crafts, and they all dressed in their pioneer dresses. They all wore bonnets and everything. They just had a fabulous time. I think it would be so much fun, at some point during the time of reading these books with your kids, to have a pioneer day where you go for a whole day without electricity, or at least a few hours without electricity, without electronics. And experience what life was like back then. So, however you use the Little House books with your kids. I hope you have a great time reading them together and enjoying them together. I hope they become an important part of your kids’ lives and challenge them to have a pioneer spirit and to be brave enough to go and do whatever God calls them to do.
And since we’re coming up on Christmas, I wanted to share a few story books that are based on the Little House series. One is a chapter book adapted for younger readers from the Little House series. It’s called Christmas Stories. And it’s by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but it is adapted for younger children. It is for children ages 6 to 10. And then there is a picture book for ages 4 to 6, that is Christmas in the Big Woods. And this one just has the story of Christmas in The Big Woods. The other one has four different Christmas stories from the Little House books adapted for a little bit younger reader. And then there’s The Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories that have the illustrations from Garth Williams and, of course, the stories from Laura Ingalls Wilder. And this is the Christmas story from each of the books in the original series. They just took the Christmas stories from each volume and put it into one book to be enjoyed at Christmas.
And then one final book I wanted to mention is called A Prairie Devotional: Inspired by the Beloved TV Series of Little House on the Prairie. And it’s written by Wendy Lou Lee, who was Baby Grace, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s baby girl. And she played Baby Grace in the TV series. And she’s written a really wonderful book called A Prairie devotional. It’s illustrated by Steven Noble. And this is just a very nice devotional book. The devotional talks about different things from the books and from the TV series and from her own life. It’s just really nicely done. You will really enjoy the devotionals. They’re very thought provoking, very inspiring, and nicely written devotionals. Well, let me just read an example. One of the excerpts, the quote is from season six, episode 11, called “Author Author,” and Caroline Ingalls is quoted at the beginning saying, “You better get some more paper then your grandpa’s got a whole lifetime of stories in his head.” And it’s called “Become a Storyteller.” Wendy Lou tells the story of grandpa and how he, when grandma Caroline’s mother passed away, he was grieving so much. He just wanted to give up. But then Albert asks him about his childhood and he starts sharing stories, and it causes him to come back to life in a sense. And then she talks about her own grandmother who did sort of the same thing. When her grandfather passed away, her stories kept her going and getting to share her stories, kept her involved. Wendy Lou asks us what stories we need to tell. Can we look at the ordinary in life as something special that God wants us to share with others? And then she ends this devotional with “Live your life in a way that your stories will be told a hundred times over.” And then she quotes Joel 1:3, “Tell your children about it in the years to come and let your children tell their children, pass the story down from generation to generation.” And then she has a couple of questions for thought at the end of that, but I love the format of these devotionals. It just kind of brings a lot to play in the stories and in the thoughts. It’s just really kind of a sweet devotional. Again, that’s called A Prairie Devotional by Wendy, Lou Lee.
As we close today, I just want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. This Thursday, we celebrate together, and hopefully we can celebrate with family either in person or on Zoom, but I hope that you are very blessed and that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your children, with your family, and that you feel very blessed by our wonderful God.
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope our discussion will spark meaningful conversations with the children in your life. Be sure to check out my website at TerrieHellardBrown.com. When you sign up for my mailing list, you get access to several freebies that are available only to my mailing list. In addition, I have right now, a link on my website and on these show notes for you to download an Advent calendar and also a thankfulness calendar where I give you a book a day to read–a suggested book–for each day of the month of November and December. I hope these books will just be a wonderful family time during this special time of year.
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!