Friday, August 14, 2020

102. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. Annette Whipple. 2020. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Dear Reader, I remember the Little House books from my elementary school’s library stacks, when Mrs. Rhinehart shelved them in the back of the library. I visited those shelves again and again. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories stayed with me throughout my life; I returned to the books as an adult and loved the stories even more. Then I shared them with my children. The books made my children ask questions. We talked about the complicated pioneer history. Together we made johnnycakes and danced to fiddle music. I even sewed an apron and bonnet for my oldest daughter’s sixth birthday. I wrote this companion guide to help you live like Laura too. As you read a Little House book (or the whole series), use this guide to help you understand Laura’s world. You can even get a taste of pioneer life with activities and recipes!

Premise/plot: Annette Whipple goes through almost chapter by chapter addressing questions young readers might have about the text of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Consider her notes to be almost annotations to the original stories. (Think The Annotated Hobbit; The Annotated Alice in Wonderland; etc. though it does not include the text of the original.) Each chapter of this one covers one of the Little House books: The Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, The First Four Years. First, Whipple goes through each book almost chapter by chapter (as previously mentioned. Second, Whipple gives extension activities. (Many require adult supervision and guidance.) Third, Whipple gives long lists of discussion questions to help guide critical thinking through the series.

Here's a sample extension activity: Pretend you need to leave your family for two months. You can only take one backpack. Carefully decide what you absolutely need and take it with you. Make it all fit into your backpack.

The back matter includes a glossary of pioneer terms and an index for all the activities.

My thoughts: I loved the Little House books. Some I loved, loved, loved. Some I merely liked. Some I've reread a dozen times or more. Others not as much. I think this book is designed for the home primarily. I see parents and guardians reading this one alongside the original stories. Perhaps fitting the books into a homeschooling environment. Perhaps just keeping this all for entertainment and pleasure. I do not see this being extremely useful within a school classroom--the extension activities don't really lend themselves to a large group. Nor is there that much free time ever within a school day to devote to living like a pioneer. The discussion questions might be better suited than the activities but I still can't imagine any one classroom reading their way through the entire series in a school year. But for home use, this is excellent!

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Lark said...

I loved loved loved the Little House books, too. Especially The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years. :)

Annette Whipple said...

Thanks so much for reviewing The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion! I appreciate your thoughts and recommendation!