Tuesday, May 01, 2007

75 Years of "Little House" Books

The first of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books was published in April 1932 and, having watched my eight year old granddaughter work her way through the series for the past several months, it's obvious that 75 years later the books still captivate little girls.

April marks the 75th anniversary of the first publication in 1932 of "Little House in the Big Woods." The story of Laura's early life in a cabin in 1860s Wisconsin launched a nine-book series that made Wilder a household name, helped by the hit award-winning TV series "Little House on the Prairie" that ran on NBC from 1974-1983.

Embraced from the start by America's teachers, the books have been read by or to generations of elementary school kids, which has helped to keep the books in continuous print. The series has sold more than 41 million copies in the United States and been translated into over 40 languages, from German and French to Arabic and Japanese.

The white clapboard farmhouse where Laura and her husband Almanzo spent most of their adult lives stands on a hillside among rolling pastures and woods in the Ozarks of southern Missouri. The couple moved here to raise apples and horses after losing their first farm in South Dakota and briefly living in Florida.

Wilder was already famous, so her home was quickly preserved as a museum after her death in 1957 at age 90.
Honestly, I thought that the books were probably a lot older than this because I didn't realize that Wilder, with lots of editing help from her daughter, Rose, had not published the first of the books until she was in her mid-sixties. It makes me smile to think that my granddaughter's own children will probably be enjoying these same books a couple of decades from now. Good books last forever.


  1. It is wonderful to know that such beloved books will continue to make their way through the generations! I look forward to my granddaughter's discovery of the "Little Houses."

  2. I have to admit that it does cheer me to see her reading what to someone her age is a "classic," Jenclair.

  3. My grade four teacher read one of those to us way back when they were futuristic fiction. Okay, so I'm not that old, but it was a while back.

    I remember that it was a class of mostly boys and yet we still loved it so much. I was one of the few that actually went on to read the rest of the series, but I probably had them hidden behind a Hardy Boys mystery or MAD Magazine.

  4. You could have hidden worse things behind those covers, John... :-)

  5. I was surprised by this post as I too thought the books were much older. I loved them, my daughter loved them and one day (DV) my grandchildren will love them too I hope.

  6. The books really do seem like they would be a lot older than 75 years, don't they? I suppose that we get that impression because they weren't written until the author was about 65 years old and they were about her early childhood so the events she described happened some 130 years or so ago.

  7. Yes, I read them all as a girl - probably about age 13. HATED the TV series tho!

  8. I agree, Sally, that the TV show was really hard to get into. I may have watched it one season or so but grew pretty tired of all the sugar and sweetness coming from Michael Landon.

    My granddaughter, on the other hand, does see to enjoy the re-runs of the series because it's the first time that she's experienced one of her favorite books "coming to life."