Monday, January 26, 2015

A Little House Introduction

A Little House introduction

By new blogger Michelle Ule

I’ve been asked from time to time where the inspiration comes from in writing historical fiction.

 I’m sure it comes from the same place for me, as a writer, as it does for you as a reader: love of history and good stories.

Like many girls, my introduction to historical fiction began when I sat at a table opposite the end of the alphabet in the fledgling fiction section of our brand new school library.

A line of books with matching covers filled the shelf opposite my seat. The print looked comfortable and easy to read, even from five feet away.

But they were fat books in the fiction section and I was only seven years old. Up until that day, I’d only read picture books from the public library. Surely, such chapter books were too “old” (as in mature) for me?

I watched those books every week in the library for a full month before I grew brave enough to pull one from the shelf.

The pages felt smooth and fit perfectly in my hands. The print looked open and friendly, the drawings whimsical and fun. 

To my surprise, I could read the opening page of a chapter book:

“A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. They drove away and left it lonely and empty in the clearing among the big trees, and they never saw that little house again.”
I examined Garth Williams’ cover drawing of two little girls looking out the back of their Conestoga wagon and put my index finger under each word in the title. I had to sound out the last word but it soon became clear: Little House on the Prairie.

And thus it began.

I learned the Little House Books had a definite order. On that first day, the first book was checked out. As a careful first born, I hesitated a moment and then, feeling daring, checked out book #2: Little House on the Prairie.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read the entire series.

Indeed, I’ve read all eight books out loud to my four children on five different occasions!

These books became my introduction to the prairie life of the United States and in a curious way, linked me to my own grandmother–whose ancestors had ridden wagons across the country to settle in Mayfield, Utah about the same time the Ingalls family headed west.

“The Ingalls Family” (Wikipedia Commons )

References to the Little House books have turned up in many corners of my life–and also in my writing.

I thought of The Long Winter when I wrote the snow scene in The Yuletide Bride.

The screaming panther in the woods in The Dogtrot Christmas points to Little House in the Big Woods.

I originally planned to use a grasshopper plague, as in On the Banks of Plum Creek, when I wrote The Sunbonnet Bride, but upon further research realized a tornado better fit the story.

 I nodded to Plum Creek’s leeches, however, when I wrote my novella.

Someday my family hopes to visit De Smet, South Dakota–sort of like a pilgrimage–but until then, I’ll turn the now browned pages of our paperback edition with fondness (we have two complete paperback editions), and look forward to the day I can open the second book and read to my adorable grandchildren.

I can hardly wait.


Everyone has a favorite Little House Book. What’s yours? Click to Tweet

From Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books I learned a lot about American history and pioneer life. Click to Tweet


Cindy Thomson said...

There is nothing like the experience you have as a child when you discover the true joy of reading. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

Tamera Lynn Kraft said...

I think The Long Winter was my favorite but it's a little like choosing between your children. I loved them all. I went to DeSmet a few years ago, and it was an awesome experience.

Michelle D Ule said...

It's funny how The Long Winter can grow on you. I always went back and forth between Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years, but you're right, they're all wonderful.

Thanks for commenting!

Amber Stockton said...

These Happy Golden Years will always be a favorite for me, as that touches the romantic spot in my heart with the love and romance between Laura and Almonzo.

This series was a favorite for me as a little girl, and then I got to watch the TV depiction that was fun, but didn't come close to what I had imagined from reading. Now, I have 2 little ones, and we're beginning this series for them. They've finally reached the chapter book interest level. PTL! :)

Thanks for joining the team, Michelle, and for sharing your discovery of the love of history.

Joan said...

Wonderful article, Michelle! I always loved the Little House books too--love them all, but if I had to choose a favorite it would be Little House in the Big Woods.

Kathleen Rouser said...

We enjoyed reading them aloud to our kids too
and they are all wonderful books. For some reason
Farmer Boy stands out in my mind.
Maybe it's because I had all sons!

Nice post, Michelle. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle D Ule said...

I have three sons, too, Kathleen, and I wanted them to know these stories so they could be well-rounded!

All that food in Farmer Boy was overwhelming until I read an article in which Laura was said to have reveled in the difference between what she wasn't eating in The Long Winter, and what Almanzo crammed into his mouth in Farmer Boy!

Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

hello Michelle. I loved the Little House books but don't remember reading them till I was born. Never noticed what year they were written but I was born in 1935. I love the all but if I were to pick favorites it would be Little House on the Prairie and On The Banks of Plum Creek. I love they have been on TV so many years, even now. I watch them all of the time still. Just wish when TV does re-runs of older shows they would put them in Regular order like they should for the new generations of kids. Enjoyed your post. Maxie from TX. > mac262(at)me(dot)com <