Book Review: Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

I’ve read my fair share of Laura Ingalls Wilder biographies for children–most (if not all) of them fitting into the glossy paged photograph-laden category. Each biography has a tendency to veer one of two directions: either it focuses almost entirely on the information Laura shared in her Little House books (thereby adding nothing for the avid reader) or it focuses almost entirely on the ways reality deviated from the Little House books (thereby destroying a young reader’s trust in the essential historicity of Wilder’s novels.)

Laura Ingalls Wilder: A biography by William Anderson is as different from those biographies as a book can be. It is not a glossy picture book with minimal text. It is not simply a retelling of Laura’s Little House books. Neither is it a critical look at how Laura changed her story.

Instead, it’s an honest to goodness biography written at a reading level (and in a style) similar to Laura’s “Little House” books. Anderson explicitly mentions some things that are different from the books (for instance, that Laura was actually much younger than described in Little House on the Prairie when her family settled in Indian territory); but he mostly writes Laura’s story as it occurred, letting the Wilder fan take notes of where stories were slightly altered or moved to a different context in the Little House books.

I loved it.

I think this book would have been very accessible to me in the throughs of my first Little House obsession (age 6-8), and would have added to my understanding of pioneer life (and Laura’s life in particular) without dissuading me from love for the Little House series.

It is a book of substance not of fluff, written simply but not condescendingly. I recommend it highly.

Having said all that, I think it is important that I clarify. This book is written for an elementary to middle school audience, so it doesn’t go into great detail about certain things. Those who are interested in a more in-depth discussion of Pa’s squatting on an Indian reservation or of other harsh components of pioneer life will be disappointed. Don’t expect an adult biography. But, for what it is, a children’s biography of a beloved author, this is a very good book.

I read this title as a part of Barbara H’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge. You can check out what other people have been reading at her wrap up post.

Rating: 4 stars
Category: Children’s biography
Synopsis: A biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder from birth to death; written for an elementary to middle grade audience.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended for the target audience (although older folks can enjoy it too).

Book Review: “Much Ado About Anne” by Heather Vogel Frederick

In my experience, lit about lit or books based on books tend to follow a fairly typical pattern.

You know, high school students perform “Romeo and Juliet” only to find that their own lives parallel the play in ways they never imagined (and generally don’t get until the end of the story.)

So I was expecting some orphans or a precocious redhead or at very least someone in need of a bosom friend when I picked up Much Ado About Anne.

When I got a couple chapters into the book and still hadn’t started to see parallels, I got a bit nervous.

It wasn’t what I expected at all.

And that’s a good thing.

Heather Vogel Frederick’s Much Ado About Anne doesn’t try to recreate Anne of Green Gables (as though another author could do it better than L.M. Montgomery!) Instead, Much Ado About Anne finds the mother-daughter book club experiencing their own story while reading through Anne’s story in book club.

Two great conflicts rise in the lives of the book club girls: first, their mothers invite the oh-so-stuck-up Becca Chadwick to join their club–and then Jess discovers that her family may be forced off their ancestral farm.

The girls (and therefore their readers) learn interesting factoids about L.M. Montgomery thanks to one girl’s librarian mother. And, just like good bibliophiles, they find ways of relating what they’re reading to their own lives.

And so, they realize that Becca is a Pye, and must be tolerated as a Pye. They relate to the utter mortification Anne felt when she dyed her hair green–although, of course, their mortification is over something entirely different. And they emulate their new heroine by naming the lands around them with fanciful names.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It has just enough Anne to make it worth its title–but not so much Anne that it’s lacking any substance of its own.

I’m glad I took the opportunity to take a glimpse at Anne through the eyes of four fictional middle-school girls. As a long-standing Anne-fan, I found myself thrilled with these girls’ glimpses of Anne–and I’m willing to bet that this book would be a great way to introduce a young reader who’s reluctant to read “old” books into the great story that is Anne. Once she’s read this, I can almost guarantee she’ll want to read the “back-story”–the novels the mother-daughter book club read and discussed and applied to their own lives.

Rating: 4 stars
Category:Middle grade fiction (female)
Synopsis:The mother-daughter book club gets busy reading Anne of Green Gables, dealing with their very own Josie Pye, and racking their brains to save Half Moon Farm.
Recommendation: Great for lovers of Anne, or lovers of YA fiction/young chick lit, or anyone who wants to introduce a younger girl to the joys of Green Gables.

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeI read this as a part of Carrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge. Check out the link for more people’s comments on L.M. Montgomery. Visit my books page for more book reviews and notes by me.