Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Revisiting An American Classic: Why “Little House on the Prairie” Still Matters


As an avid reader, I’ve consumed my fair share of novels over the years. But few stories have resonated with me quite like the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This series holds a special place in my heart for its portable slices of history, gems of simplicity, and masterful ability to whisk me back to the late 1800s.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

You can find Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder on your favorite bookstore, including and Amazon UK.

About author Laura Ingalls

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of America’s most beloved children’s book authors. She wrote the famous Little House series of autobiographical children’s novels based on her childhood as a pioneer growing up on the American frontier in the late 1800s.

Laura was born in Wisconsin, in 1867. She moved moved around frequently with her parents, Charles and Caroline Ingalls, to follow the frontier as it expanded westward, living in Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and other midwestern states. Wilder’s books capture in rich detail what life was like for pioneer families trying to build a life on the prairie – from their log cabins and sod houses to the struggles of farming, harsh winters, illness, and more.

The first book in the Little House series was published in 1932 when Laura was 65 years old. It describes her earliest memories growing up on her family’s homestead near Pepin, Wisconsin. Over the next 11 years, she would publish Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years chronicling the Ingalls family’s pioneer journey.

The Little House books were an instant success and remain popular today, selling over 60 million copies in more than 100 countries in over 40 languages. They offer an immersive portal into pioneer life on the American frontier, inspiring generations of children with their tales of hope, courage, family bonds, and adventure. Beyond their literary significance, the books provide valuable historical documentation of American expansionism and agriculture in the late 19th century.

Wilder’s work inspired the beloved TV series Little House on the Prairie starring Melissa Gilbert which aired from 1974-1983. Various spinoffs and adaptations of Wilder’s stories through plays, musicals, films, and more continue to this day.

Wilder’s books earned her numerous prestigious literary awards including the inaugural Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the American Library Association in 1954 honoring lasting contributions to children’s literature. Wilder also played an instrumental role in founding the Ozarks branch of the National Farmers Bank.

Though Wilder passed away in 1957 at the age of 90, her classic stories live on for new generations of children and adults alike. Her books and their message of optimism and perseverance in the face of adversity resonate as deeply today as when they were first written. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s impact on children’s literature and pioneering history is undoubtedly profound and permanent.

An Unvarnished Look at Pioneer Life

Published between 1932 and 1943, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiographical “Little House” novels offer an unfiltered peek into frontier living. As the cornerstone of children’s literature for decades, these classics chronicle the Ingalls family’s journeys through Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, and Dakota Territory.

Wilder astonishes us with her meticulous and unembellished record of thatching roofs, grinding grain, smoking meat, and other gritty homestead duties. Through her eyes, we witness covered wagon travel, one-room schools, hearty meals, faithful horses, threatening blizzards, and more with striking clarity.

Finding Beauty in Simplicity

As an adult revisiting these books, I’m struck by Wilder’s sublime appreciation of simplicity. She finds splendor in a handful of candy, joy in a new calico dress, warmth in sticks of charcoal. Her contentedness with small pleasures is an antidote to modern discontent.

Do you remember when young Laura is enthralled by the “great, red apples” Pa brings home? Or how a rare Christmas orange left “a golden glow of joy” inside her? Wilder pens these scenes so vividly that I can nearly taste the fruit she deemed luxurious.

Transporting Tales of Courage and Resilience

Of course, Wilder doesn’t sanitize pioneer life. She reveals the very real perils of crop failures, relentless illnesses, fires, and more. But she also unveils awe-inspiring courage in the Ingalls family.

As they lose beloved animals, battle raging snowstorms, and flee dangers in Kansas, we witness resilience rising from ruin. Hardship becomes the very thing that helps this family lean on their faith, ingenuity, and each other.

Wilder takes care to spotlight her Ma especially. Caroline Ingalls pours boundless energy into raising her girls, fostering hospitality and community wherever they roam. As someone forged in frontier fires, Ma models the grit it takes to fling open the shutters on each new “little house” and make it home.

Finding Parallels in My Own Pandemic Story

Revisiting this series now, during a global pandemic, new parallels emerge. As I read of the Ingalls’ isolated winters and dwindling stores, I better understand that isolation myself. I’m reminded how crisis can augment courage and creativity much like it did for Laura’s family.

Most of all, I’m inspired by the quiet strength and infectious optimism Wilder illuminates, even during her family’s darkest days. Much like the Ingalls clan, we’ll get through this crisis together, with patience and perseverance worthy of the pioneer spirit.

Why You Should Read This Series

Maybe you first read these classics in a schoolroom decades ago. Or perhaps Wilder’s tales are altogether new to you. Either way, I cannot recommend these books enough for their winding wisdom, window into history, masterful storytelling, and timeless lessons on gratitude.

Join the adventure as the Ingalls go from log cabins to sod houses and beyond. Let these luminous memoirs sweep you into humble, heartfelt pioneering life. Find out if your own fortitude can match that of stalwart Laura, selfless Ma, devoted Pa, and the whole spirited crew.

Fall in love with the majesty of America’s heartland like I did. But be warned: once you befriend the “Little House” series, you might just want to cozy up in their pages forever.

More Frontier Literature to Explore

If you enjoy journeying alongside the Ingalls family, here are a few more series I’d suggest:

The Boxcar Children

This beloved, mystery-tinged series follows four resilient siblings as they make an abandoned boxcar their makeshift home. Through teamwork and compassion, they not only survive but thrive while inspiring their community.

  1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Anne is an imaginative orphan sent to live on Prince Edward Island who gets into amusing scrapes, similar to Laura Ingalls. Readers who love the way Laura describes the landscapes and small town life she encounters will find a kindred spirit in this Canadian island setting.
  2. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. This beloved children’s series follows a group of orphaned siblings who make their home in an abandoned boxcar and have adventures together as an independent, resourceful family. Like the Little House books, it features old-fashioned values and resilience in challenging circumstances.
  3. Acorna: The Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey. A fantasy twist, this sci-fi book features a brave, caring girl raised in unusual circumstances who goes on to have larger-than-life adventures beyond her humble beginnings, much like pioneer girl Laura.
  4. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Left stranded alone on an island for years, a young Native American girl named Karana displays tremendous courage and resourcefulness to survive despite harsh challenges – inspiring readers just as Laura does in her books.
  5. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. For those who love reading about strong-willed girls facing adversity at boarding school yet keeping optimism and imagination intact like Laura Ingalls, this Victorian classic delivers magic and empowering life lessons.
  6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Another boarding school tale, this one sees contrary Mary Lennox grow into a more empathetic, fulfilled person through the metaphor of tending roses – much like Laura matures while traversing the American prairie’s symbolic landscapes.
  7. My Ántonia by Willa Cather. Laura’s nostalgic pioneer coming-of-age story finds echoes in this landmark novel about Ántonia Shimerda, an immigrant girl who journeyed to the Nebraska plains and into adult independence against odds, celebrating the shared struggles of girls on the prairie.
  8. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. This lyrical, Newbery-winning novella tells of a woman journeying west to become new family to children who placed an ad for a new mother and wife after loss and loneliness, reminding Laura Ingalls Wilder fans how resilience and human connection empower prairie living.
  9. Prairie Songs by Pam Conrad. Return to De Smet, South Dakota by following fictionalized characters outside of Laura’s books as they experience adventures against the backdrop of the area Laura grew up in – focusing on the tightknit community and evocative landscape.

I hope you’ll take this trail-blazing journey with the Ingalls family soon. And when you finish, perhaps wander into the wilderness with one of these wilderness adventure classics as well!


1. Where was the Little House on the Prairie located?

The Ingalls family’s little house as described in the early books of the series was located in southeastern Kansas, near the town of Independence. The books specifically mention that the house was built near the Verdigris River. They did not stay there long before moving on.

2. What years did the books’ events take place in?

The books in the original Little House series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published between 1932-1943 cover the time period of roughly 1870 to 1894. They begin when Laura is a very small child through to her early married life with Almanzo Wilder.

3. How historically accurate are the Little House books?

The books are considered semi-autobiographical, meaning many events described likely did happen as portrayed, though some small details or timelines may have been altered or compressed. Overall, they give an accurate depiction of pioneer life on the American prairie in the late 1800s.

4. How old was Laura Ingalls Wilder when she started writing?

Laura began work on the first Little House book in 1930 when she was 63 years old. She had survived scarlet fever, malaria, and diphtheria as a child all without antibiotics. Her pioneer childhood remained strong in her memories into older age when she began writing.

5. What inspired Laura Ingalls Wilder to write the books?

As an adult, Laura had shared her childhood memories by speaking to community groups. It was her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, who ultimately encouraged her to write down all her stories to preserve her family’s history before the accounts were lost.

6. How did the Ingalls family travel to all their homes?

As pioneers in the late 1800s, the Ingalls relied on covered wagons pulled by horses to haul their belongings from place to place over hundreds of miles on small dirt roads through undeveloped land whenever they set up a new homestead.

7. What difficulties did the Ingalls family face?

Like many pioneers, the Ingalls dealt with extreme weather from fierce storms to bitter cold winters, unreliable crops struggling to grow on the prairie, dangerous wildlife like bears and wolves nearby, isolation, and constant financial worries balancing needs versus earning money.

8. How are Laura Ingalls Wilder’s baby sister Grace and the new adopted brother portrayed?

Grace Pearl Ingalls was born in 1877 in the book Little House on the Prairie when Laura was around 5 years old. Later, in By the Shores of Silver Lake, the Ingalls adopt a baby boy named Charles Frederick, who they called Freddie. Grace and Freddie added new playmates for Laura.

9. Was Ma, Caroline Ingalls, an educated woman?

Yes, Ma (Caroline or “Carrie”) attended school in Wisconsin where she was trained as a teacher. She ended up marrying Charles Ingalls at age 16 instead of teaching, but education was valued in her family. She made sure her daughters were literate and could also qualify to teach school one day.

10. Why was Pa, Charles Ingalls, so determined to keep moving west?

Pa had a stubborn independent pioneer spirit and a yearning to keep exploring new unsettled land opened up by the government under the Homestead Act. He enjoyed the challenge of establishing a new homestead, but often got restless once more settlers moved into the same area.

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