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Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  4,931 Ratings  ·  960 Reviews
Pioneer Girl follows the Ingalls family's journey through Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, back to Minnesota, and on to Dakota Territory sixteen years of travels, unforgettable experiences, and the everyday people who became immortal through Wilder's fiction. Using additional manuscripts, letters, photographs, newspapers, and other sources, award-winning Wilde ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 20th 2014 by South Dakota State Historical Society
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Tamara Saarinen Hello-

According to the editor and several articles/interviews about the book it is intended for adults who grew up reading the series. Some of the…more

According to the editor and several articles/interviews about the book it is intended for adults who grew up reading the series. Some of the items left out of the series include domestic violence, attempted molestation, etc. Perhaps for older teens who are fans of the series, but not the younger audience the Little House series was written for. You can read more about the book on
Kristin This book is about the author of the series. I see no reason to read this if you aren't already familiar with (and likely a fan of) the series and/or…moreThis book is about the author of the series. I see no reason to read this if you aren't already familiar with (and likely a fan of) the series and/or author.(less)

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Miranda Reads
I'm geeking out right now - can you feel me geeking out???

I love the original Little House on the Prairie series. Just adore it. But I always wondered how much of the story was true versus how much was embellished to make the series sell. This autobiography delves into that question with painstaking detail.

This book contains the original manuscript (of what would latter become split into the Little House series) and every detail mentioned within is fact-checked with a footnote. Everything is
May 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Pioneer Girl annotated edition was fascinating to read. The notes were very informative and I learned so much about the development of the Little House books.

Note: The following is my original review of the manuscript only, not the annotated edition (from May 11, 2011).

I'm so glad I was able to read this. It was very interesting to compare it to the published Little House books and see how they differ. One significant difference is Pioneer Girl includes the 3-4 years in between On the Banks
Laura Ingalls Wilder finished this autobiography in 1930, the account of her 16 years of childhood. Her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, a writer, sent the manuscript to her agent. He rejected it, said it was just "an old lady sitting in a rocking chair telling a story". But maybe they could use it to write fictional stories, stories for children that could be easier published. The first of these stories came two years later, Little House in the Big Woods, and thus began a series that would become ic ...more
Susan Albert
Dec 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: autobiography
The manuscript text documented in Pioneer Girl takes us deep into the real life of a pioneer family that barely clung to a hard-luck existence on the margins of nineteenth-century American settlement. It also reveals a great deal about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s competence and ambitions as a writer, and the great distance a story can travel between real life and fiction. Readers and scholars alike will be delighted to have—at long last—the text of Wilder’s unpublished autobiography. Kudos to the Sou ...more
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
2/6/15: If I had read just the pure raw Laura Ingalls Wilder text of Pioneer Girl without any of the annotations, I'd probably have given it a three star rating, simply because it's interesting but is clearly a first draft of an autobiography that evolved into a beloved series of novels that impressed themselves upon me from as long ago as I can remember. (Are you listening, Harper Lee?)

But when you take into account the beauty of the physical book itself, the meticulous and almost obsessive res
The books of Laura Ingalls Wilder were my best friends growing up. I read & re-read them constantly most of my life. I received my boxed set when I was about 8 or 9 as a reward for helping my brother who had been laid up with a broken leg. To this day, when I open one of them, I will inhale deeply for its scent which I find only in these books.

A couple years later while vacationing in Pelican Rapids, at a small bookstore on main street, I saw the book, Laura, by Donald Zochert, and thought I
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I was surprised to see that this is the first time Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography has been published. The reason is now clear to me - she wrote her life story down once she hit her 60s, both with her daughter (private audience) and publication (public audience) in mind. After multiple attempts to get it published by her "famous writer" daughter Rose Lane Wilder, they got advice to adapt it as juvenile fiction. The story with slight modifications would go on to become the legendary The Litt ...more
Dec 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Talk about thorough! This book provides "everything you ever wanted to know....and then 10 times as much" about Laura Ingalls Wilder, her life and how her series of "Little House" books REALLY came into being. As someone who thinks about the process it takes to see a book through to a published reality, I found the commentary about Laura's interactions with her writer/editor daughter, Rose, quite interesting. It was insightful on many levels, and one of the scenarios I found most fascinating was ...more
Sue Weiss
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
So, I WAS that kid who read and re-read the Little House books over and over again. I can't begin to explain my fascination with Laura, Mary, Ma & Pa, but boy, did I ever love those books. I read them aloud to my kids when they were growing up and recently re-read them as an adult. (Yup, I still love them just as much.) So, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book, and it is everything I hoped it would be.

LIW wrote a manuscript called "Pioneer Girl" long before she wrote any of the chil
Nov 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved the Little House series as a child, so this was a chance to get more of the story. And oh boy, do you get more. Almost too much. After the voluminous foreward, the reader is launched into a sea of footnotes. There's annotation, and then there's drowning your reader. I enjoyed the glimpse into pioneer life, the tidbits that you won't learn from the children's books or t.v. shows, but I had to start skipping whole pages of footnotes about minor editing changes to keep the momentum going. I ...more
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read my copy of the unedited version with Laura's notes and misspellings and crossed out areas in practically one sitting. I loved every single bit of it. I see Laura now more as a real person than I did before. What a life she had! I was grateful for this copy and treasured every moment reading it.
Jason Pettus
(UPDATE: After reading other people's reviews here, I'm absolutely delighted by how many angry writeups there are along the lines of, "I can't believe this annotated edition has so many annotations!!!" That's the entire point of an annotated edition, to bring a scholarly look at all the facts and figures that are being presented within the manuscript itself; if you were to move all of them to the back of the book, they would be footnotes and you would therefore not call it an annotated edition. ...more
“Wilder once wrote…that her novel By the Shores of Silver Lake ‘is not a history but a true story founded on historical fact.’…[L]iterary agent George Bye wrote Wilder… ‘I predict that this series will become an American fixture.’” (p 328)

The first library I can remember being really familiar with – I mean, the first library where I can remember exactly where specific books were shelved, and what books I borrowed again and again – was the library of Steele Elementary School in Harrisburg, Penn
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it
I am probably one of the few people who wasn't that fond of this book. I am a huge LIW fan. I was looking forward to this for so long (I never had the chance to read the manuscript before like others have). So, it is kind of depressing to end up as disappointed as I was with it.

The good opinions first. Laura's story isn't "polished". That is fine. That is expected. It didn't bother me at all. And it made for a nice, easy read. A lot of the stories in Pioneer Girl are in the LH series of books. A
I am a HUGE Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. I even visited both THE Little House near Independence, KS, and Wilder's home in Mansfield, MO. And it's bizarre to learn here that Laura Ingalls Wilder herself never went back to The Little House, even though she and Rose tried when she was researching and writing The Little House on the Prairie. But Laura remembered it was in Indian Territory and thought it was further from Independence, KS than it is, and so they were looking around Oklahoma (understandab ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am still marveling at the fact that I was able to get this book. Really, I did nothing unusual. I ordered it on Barnes & Noble as soon as I heard it existed. The book arrived in November and I vowed not to read it until Christmas - which I did. I am a Laura Ingalls Wilder junkie. Laura Ingalls Wilder influenced my life from 5th grade until now (and I'm 51). When I read it as a girl, Laura was my lodestone. Her way of managing bullies, hard times, sibling rivalry, adulthood were all incorpo ...more
Aug 26, 2014 rated it liked it
It pains me to give this book three stars. There is so much research and so much care apparent in it. The format of the book is large and gorgeous. The layout and printing are fantastic: it's easy to read and navigate through. The attention to accuracy, detail, substantiation and transparency are admirable and welcome in our click-bait, spread-any-old-quality-of-information around society. The rarity of content, both written and photographic, is a prize.

But I think this book was intended for one
As with many readers, much of my early reading involved the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Of course, that world was also brought into our homes through the television series of the same name. It is not a stretch to say it has been a beloved staple of childhood for generations, including my own. Therefore, I was thrilled to get an advanced copy “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Biography” through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

Here comes
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
So I start this book and realize that there's almost 70 pages worth of introduction. I roll my eyes and dive right in. I'm getting impatient by the end of it, but this line gives me hope, "In the interest of keeping the annotative material from overwhelming Wilder's text, the documentation style used within the notes has been simplified" (lxvi). So I thought, "Cool, there's so much introduction because they're mostly leaving the text alone. Awesome." And the first double page spread was really w ...more
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have a deep, decades-long love for the entire Little House series and Laura's Missouri Ruralist articles. I have been waiting for this book for a very long time.

This is the jewel in the crown of her work. It's Laura's voice, plain as day, telling her stories the way she intended to tell it. It becomes clear after reading her original manuscript how she (and her daughter Rose) developed her family into characters. Ma and Pa in particular come off as far more human than their fictionalized char
Story Circle Book Reviews
Dec 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
More than eighty years after it was written, finally fans of the Little House books have an opportunity to read Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography, on which the popular series was based. In a heavily annotated edition, with maps and appendices that enrich the text, here are her memories of her family and their pioneer life from 1869 to 1888 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakota Territory.

Essentially Laura's factual personal history, Pioneer Girl was intended for adult readers. She had writte
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This publication "presents new insights into Wilder's past, but it also helps to document her growth as an important American artist who grew from farm journalist to novelist to literary legend". This was a super slow but fascinating read, due to the intro and hundreds of footnotes. It was SO well-researched that I wonder what Laura would think! I would like to read it sometime without the interruption of footnotes, but I'm not a person who is easily bothered by them. I appreciated Hill's points ...more
Shari Larsen
This autobiography is the first attempt by Laura Ingalls Wilder to tell her life story, written even before the Little House series of books, but it is her last book-length manuscript to ever be printed. It reveals the true stories behind the events that took place in the Little House books, and also the many true stories that were left out for one reason or another.

Adding to memoir are census data, newspaper reports, photos, and other historical documents. The editor did a very thorough job wit
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well, that was a slow but exceedingly well-researched read! I'm glad to have read the whole series recently enough to remember it well: if you haven't, I recommend reading the series first. After so many articles about Rose and the fictional elements of the Little House books, it was really a pleasure to read the original text. More importantly, it made me appreciate how much more successful the fictionalized versions are, literarily. One appendix is images of the full typewritten text of the "j ...more
Girl with her Head in a Book
By far and away, this was the book that I was most excited to receive for Christmas - although due to a very silly date of publication, it didn't actually turn up until a few weeks later. Since I first discovered that the Little House series was based upon an adult memoir, I looked high and low for the original. Surely in the age of the internet, it would be available somewhere? But no. It was not until now, almost sixty years after Wilder's death, that it has finally found a readership but it w ...more
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For those of us who have fond memories of reading the Little House on the Prairie books to ourselves and later to our children, Pioneer Girl is a heavily annotated book that provides the original manuscript Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote with every page filled with background comments by the editor.

Some reviews stated they found the annotations to be cumbersome reading but I thought the notes were what made the book worth reading at all.

In the 1920's, after the death of Wilder's mother and a few yea
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I asked Google: "person obsessed with Laura Ingalls" but there isn't a term, like kathisomania (a mania for sitting), or gephyromania (a mania for crossing bridges). Let's call ourselves Ingallphiles.

Well, Ingallphiles, this book is your fix. Pioneer Girl, the original uncut version of the Little House series, has been dissected, annotated, footnoted, bibliographied and indexed to your heart's content. So much so that I might not be an Ingallphile after all.

I admit that I did not read every si
The Annotated Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder is exactly what I would have loved to have as a companion to my childhood set of Little House books. The detailed research and notes are extraordinary windows into the true life of Laura. I pored over every detail, photo, and nugget of description, just as I did with the fictional books I treasured as a little girl.

Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
First things first, the introduction, though long, was fascinating background for Laura's publication journey. Non-writers may find it illuminating just how much work goes into writing and publishing a book, and it's a wonderful foundation for the rest of the Pioneer Girl experience. Whether you read it before the book or after, make sure you do read it.

Second, Pamela Smith Hill's annotations made the book a much richer, deeper reading experience. Laura's writing is terse and occasionally out of
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I would probably only recommend this to a devoted Little House fan, which I am. *puts on bonnet* The Little House books were the first books I read on my own, and I read and re-read them so many times. I've been to DeSmet twice.

Here seems like a place to note: I acknowledge that there are problematic elements in these books! But I still have extremely fond memories of these books. And reading this annotated edition gave some interesting insight about how LIW (and her daughter Rose Lane) conscio
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Ingalls wrote a series of historical fiction books for children based on her childhood growing up in a pioneer family. She also wrote a regular newspaper column and kept a diary as an adult moving from South Dakota to Missouri, the latter of which has been published as a book.
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