Birthday for ‘Little House’ author
Posted: February 5, 2013
The Winchester Star
Winchester — Fans of all ages of Laura Ingalls Wilder may celebrate her birthday this week when the “Little House” comes to Handley Library.
The Friends of Handley Regional Library will offer free children and adult programs Wednesday to honor the author and take a closer look at the world she lived in, said Barbara Dickinson, executive director of the Friends. Wilder was born Feb. 7, 1867.
Constance Potter, reference archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., will present “Little House in the National Archives” to children and adults.
A children’s program will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the library, 100 W. Piccadilly St., before moving upstairs to the youth room. The activities are aimed at children ages 8 and up.
The adult program begins at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium.
“I hope there is a rediscovery of her by some people who haven't read her books,” Dickinson said. “I expect we will have some parents and grandparents enjoying bringing their children and grandchildren in and talking about her.”
Potter will discuss research she started in the 1980s to compare Wilder’s books with actual census, land, post office and weather records from the time period. The project was a hobby she started because she loved the books.
The presentations will focus on the books, not the 1970s and ’80s television series “Little House on the Prairie,” which presented a very “different Laura,” she said. The Laura of the books was “a spunky little girl.”
“I was curious to see how the records either conformed or denied the stories in the books,” said Potter of Arlington. “I found that at times the story in the book is the story that really happened, but at other times she took poetic license.”
For instance, Wilder’s sister, Carrie Ingalls, was born when the family lived in Kansas Territory, but she is a baby in the first book in the series, “Little House in the Big Woods,” set near Pepin, Wis.
“It tells a better story with a baby, but it doesn’t change where the family went and what they did,” she said.
The topics of the books range from a young Laura learning homesteading skills to the family facing dangers from wild animals, illness, and crop destruction to her romance with homesteader Almanzo Wilder.
Wilder always said the books were not fiction, which has been debated, Potter said.
But nothing she discovered in her research changes that Wilder’s books “were great stories,” she said.
After Potter gives her presentation to the children, youth services librarian Jennifer Sutter will take them upstairs for a craft and a snack that date to Wilder’s youth.
“I am using books from that time,” Sutter said. “We have a craft book, so I am taking it from one in the book. The recipe is also going to come from a cookbook of that time.”
Although the activity will depend on the numbers, a few possibilities are sewing projects, such as creating a sampler or a doll, Sutter said. The craft will be geared toward children 8 and up.
The program falls a day before Wilder’s birthday, but it also grew out of the fact that many people are familiar with the television series but not the books, Dickinson said. She hopes there is a rediscovery of the “Little House” books by people who haven’t read them.
Winchester Book Gallery has all of the books in the series available for purchase, and there will be a display at the library.
“I am hoping that anybody who hasn’t found her has a wonderful time reading her, much as many of us did when we were children,” she said.
On top of that, people who are interested in genealogy will be reminded they can use federal records to research their own families and find out if they are true or “to give facts and figures to some family traditions.”
The Friends of Handley Library will present a lecture to celebrate the birthday of author Laura Ingalls Wilder Wednesday at Handley Library, 100 W. Piccadilly St. The children’s program begins at 4:30 p.m. and an adult lecture at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium. Both are free and open to the public. For more information, call 540-662-6046, ext 31.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com