I am a big fan Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. Though it took a few months, this past year I shared the books with my four year old daughter in the car with our library's audio books. She thoroughly enjoyed the books, and someday when she has a CD player in her room, I look forward to her listening to the books during her rest time. We will also read our set together. I can't get enough. Having enjoyed the books as a child, when expecting (and not knowing the sex of our child) I purchased the set. No regrets!
This summer when I was cleaning our basement, I found two books that will be a great treasure once I get to read them. They are two books about Laura's daughter, Rose. Written by a family friend, Roger Lea MacBride, they are Little House on Rocky Ridge and Little Farm in the Ozarks. Not only that, but Friday night I found a Laura biography that is appropriate for younger children!
In the meantime, I was able to get a wonderful look into the adult Laura Ingalls Wilder's life. A Little House Traveler is for any Laura Ingalls Wilder fan who wants to know the adult Laura (along with husband Almanzo and daughter Rose) better. I appreciated so much about this book! I found myself enjoying the black and white photos and reading every footnote to better understand Laura.
A Little House Traveler is based on the writings (letters and diaries) of Laura. It's divided into three parts. In part one, we read of Laura, Almanzo, and Rose's journey by wagon from South Dakota to their new home in Mansfield, Missouri from Laura's diary. (This portion's reading was a bit slow.)
Laura's daughter, Rose, wrote to her parents asking them to come to San Francisco to visit. Though Almanzo (Manly) could not leave the farm for such a long time, Laura went at the age of 48 to see her 29 year old daughter and Rose's husband, Gillette. Laura traveled by train. She arrived in the late summer of 1915 and stayed on through the fall. Rose was a working woman-a writer- and part of the visit was dedicated to helping Laura polish her writing so that she may one day write about her childhood and be published. (HA!) She also had the privilege of visiting during the World's Fair (Exposition) many times during her visit. She wrote about it and was published in her newspaper back in Missouri upon her arrival home. The letters were written to Almanzo. A few letters from Rose to Almanzo were also included since they would have been mailed with Laura's letters.
"You know I have never cared for cities but San Francisco is simply the most beautiful thing. Set on the hills as it is with glimpses of the bay here and there and at night with the lights shining up and down the hills and the lights of ships on the water, it is like fairyland. I have not seen any of the Exposition yet. San Francisco itself would be wonderful enough for a year, but we will begin this week to go to the fair. You must not expect me to see it all for it has been figured out that it would cost $500 just to see the five-cent, ten-cent and twenty-five-cent attractions." ~ August 29, 1915, a portion from Laura's first letter to Manly from San Francisco
The letters to Manly from Laura are rich in history, too. World War I was at that time, and the bay was an open area. Some of the letters are amazingly long.
Many years pass before the next portion of the book. Part three is Laura's journals from Mansfield, Missouri to De Smet, South Dakota. It's 1931, so once again, we get a personal glimpse into history; this time it's the Great Depression. Laura is 64 and Manly is 74 years old. (Did anyone else think there was less of an age difference? In The Long Winter, I knew Manly lied about his age to get the land...and I thought it was much less than 10 years difference. Anyway...)
The drought's contribution to hard times during the Great Depression are quite apparent through Laura's journal entries. Laura also kept records of the cost of most of the trip to see her sisters Grace and Carrie. She wrote down the gas, meals, snacks, cabins, and other miscellaneous expenses, including what their dog ate and car repairs. Amazingly, the four weeks and 2,530 miles only cost $120 for round trip!
This was a fabulous book. I loved so much about it and highly recommend it for Little House fans. However, I will say that I'm not sure that children (even pre-teens) would love it so much, but it would certainly be great to include it in a classroom or homeschool study of any of the time periods mentioned above. Laura was always a writer, even when exhausted in the covered wagon. By the way, did you know Manly and even Rose called her Bess (or Mama Bess) so as not to confuse her with Almanzo's sister?
My only complaint about A Little House Traveler is that I believe credit should have been given (on the cover, not just within the book) to Rose Wilder Lane and Roger Lea MacBride for writing introductions to the different parts. Their contributions were very important (and lengthy) for the reader to understand the right setting. Obviously, this is minor, and it's a fabulous book giving great insight to Laura's adult life.
Big thanks to Harper Collins for providing this book for review purposes.
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