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Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography Hardcover – December 30, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up—Hill presents a detailed annotated version of Wilder's autobiography, written between 1929 and 1930, which served as the basis for the ever-popular and successful "Little House" books. A successful columnist and editor, Wilder chronicled 16 years of the Ingalls family's moves through Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakota Territory in the late 19th century, offering vivid descriptions of the land and people as well as the ups and downs of frontier life. Though daughter Rose Wilder Lane heavily edited the manuscript, it was never accepted for publication. Wilder eventually fictionalized many of the incidents described here for her "Little House" series and strove to portray the spirit of the time and to illustrate the courage and adaptability of the people who settled the frontier. Using census data, newspapers, and other primary documents, this volume is heavily annotated and puts into perspective the original autobiography and how that manuscript evolved into the fictional stories. Though casual readers may find the information overwhelming, "Little House" devotees will appreciate Hill's thorough examination of Wilder's life and times.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel


Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography offers Wilder s complete first draft of her own story, enhanced by scrupulous and wide-ranging new research. . . . And I m happy to say is a treasure. . . . Wilder pulls off the difficult trick of telling a rich, satisfying story about good people being good. The Pa of Pioneer Girl is still a selfless provider, Ma is a skilled homemaker, Mary a prim playmate, and Laura a good-hearted tomboy. Their stories may have been tidied up on the path between nonfiction and fiction, but their characters remain reassuringly intact. . . . Pioneer Girl is a welcome reminder of the power, even the genius of the Little House books. . . . this annotated edition of Pioneer Girl will deepen and enrich a great American story. Ruth Graham, The Slate Book Review

Wilder s memoir is a fascinating piece of American history, but it s the annotations that set Pioneer Girl apart as the most important work of its kind. . . . It thrills with new insights and mature content, educates with historical facts and documentation, and enlightens with cultural perspective and commentary, all while maintaining the spirit of adventure and integrity that is the backbone of the Little House world and Wilder herself. . . . With Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, Hill has ensured that not only will Laura Ingalls Wilder continue to inspire, but that her audience will grow and expand for generations to come. Pallas Gates McCorquodale, Foreword Reviews Magazine

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography offers an in-depth look at the original hand-written nonfiction manuscript by Wilder . . . an extensive back story of both Lane and Wilder as writers and the role Pioneer Girl played in their respective careers. . . . I found it fascinating . . . Pioneer Girl is dense with annotations that explain how original text was edited, where individual stories ended up in the final series, and how editors worked to fact-check Wilder s personal memories. . . . Most importantly, Pioneer Girl frames Wilder s work in a historical context and closes the gap between her pioneer days as a young girl and her life as a highly acclaimed fiction writer . . . Pioneer Girl offers an in-depth look at the circumstances that, over time, caused the original girlhood tales of Wilder to evolve into a series of bestselling books that earned Wilder critical acclaim and recognition that have endured for decades. Lane Brown, The Christian Science Monitor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: South Dakota Historical Society Press; annotated edition edition (December 30, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984504176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984504176
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 9.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

241 of 248 people found the following review helpful By Julie on December 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is absolutely gorgeous, and I was SHOCKED by the size. I had no idea it was going to be the size of a school text book. The paper quality is lovely, and the pictures are wonderful. The cover is beautiful, and not only does it look so much like teenage Laura, it also fits really well with the Garth Williams illustrations we are all familiar with.

The information inside is absolute gold. I had no idea that there was anything else I could learn about Laura, as I have read every book written by, for, or about her, but there is so much. It truly gives new insight into what was true and what was fiction in the series. Reading Laura's words is like reading a letter written by my own grandmother, the style of writing is so honest and open. The side-bar information is fascinating. The depth of research that went into every name Laura mentions, every location, and every incident is mind-boggling.

I'm even more stunned now at Laura's memory. Although she makes a few mistakes about some names, for the most part, she remembers names of neighbors and details about events that are verified by Hill and the other researchers. It's truly impressive that Laura was able to remember so much detail about her childhood.

My absolute favorite little bit from Laura's writing was the story about the mitten she knitted for Baby Carrie. It is one of the sweetest stories I've read, and feels so absolutely true and with emotions that I can even remember feeling as a young child.

I still have a bit of the book to go. I'm a speed reader, and it still takes me an hour to get through ten pages. There is just SO MUCH packed onto each and every page that it takes awhile to digest. I've literally been waiting twenty years to read Pioneer Girl, ever since I first found out it existed, when I was about ten years old. Finally reading it is a little stunning.
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211 of 220 people found the following review helpful By B. Hartman on December 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What an amazing piece of scholarship! I admit, full disclosure, I carry a Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society membership card in my wallet. But this book carries all the LIW studies to a new level. The paper, readability, construction and beautiful cover are all first rate. The contents, though, will blow you away. I've always been at odds with those who claim Rose "ghost wrote" the books. This volume of Laura's first manuscript proves that she is a writer at heart. Congrats to the Pioneer Girl Project, and Pamela Smith Hill-- your hefty tome was worth your time. The enlightenment your work will bring for generations to come cannot be measured. Thank you for a wonderful book.
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247 of 264 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on December 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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 written for the St. Louis Star Farmer and the Missouri Ruralist, but that writing had generally been about farming and the rural lifestyle. After her parents and her older sister passed away, Laura began, at age 63, to devote herself to writing the family's experiences in the raw American West. This she did in pencil in six tablets that are transcribed and lightly edited for this edition.

Pioneer Girl tells the story of Laura's growing up years, from age two to eighteen. Taken by itself, without the annotations, it reads as a rough first draft, with all the immediacy that goes with getting memories down on paper quickly. It is fascinating to hear the Little House anecdotes told from an adult perspective, and to confirm the realities of pioneer life. Laura's voice feels genuine, and the asides to her daughter make it clear that one of her goals was to preserve familiar stories that were part of the family's legacy. The other object was to get the book published, in part because Laura had writing ambitions, but probably more because the Wilders desperately needed money, both parents and daughter having lost their savings in the economic collapse at the beginning of the Great Depression.

Where this book becomes complex is in the annotations.
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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful By a reader on January 29, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A stunning work of scholarship that belongs on the shelves of every Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, this edition of Pioneer Girl is nothing short of a tour de force. It is visually beautiful, an over-sized book on high-quality paper designed to accommodate the manuscript of PIONEER GIRL in the center and the copious notes about its content running alongside at the margin. It contains a wealth of images, a feat indeed when we consider that there are only a few photos extant of the Ingalls and Wilder clans (many of the original illustrations for the LITTLE HOUSE books, drawn by Helen Sewell and unfamiliar to all of us who grew up with Garth Williams's beautiful pictures, also decorate the pages). Most of all, it contains information: an absolute watershed of carefully researched background on the people and events described both in Laura's original Pioneer Girl manuscript and in the eventual published books.

This is not a book suitable for anyone who doesn't know the Little House books backwards and forwards. (For instance, if you don't know who Charlotte is, it's not going to mean much that she was originally called Roxy. For those of us who do, however, it's almost shocking news!) In fact, assuming the correct level of expertise of the readers must have been one of the most difficult tasks facing Pamela Smith Hill, who "edited" (the word isn't nearly big enough to describe what she must have done) and annotated the manuscript. She had to decide how much backstory to put into the notes, and she seems to have almost intuitively grasped the level of knowledge of the average reader.

That said, there are no startling revelations for the avid Laura Ingalls Wilder reader -- at least, not for any familiar with her biographies. We do not learn the true identity of Mr.
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