I’ve been reading a lot of books about Little House on the Prairie lately. I loved the books as a child (and adult), and even though the show had little to do with the actual stories, I remember watching that often as well.
Melissa Gilbert’s Prairie Tale: A Memoir kicked off my Little House reading. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Gilbert was the star– the cute and scrappy pioneer kid, Laura Ingalls. In real life, she hung out with the Brat Pack actors and actresses and dated a young Rob Lowe. Gilbert, like many child stars, grew up to battle drug addiction and she writes frankly about her struggles. But it’s her descriptions of the behind-the-scenes Little House on the Prairie that were the real draw of this book for me.
Not long after Gilbert’s book came out, it was followed by Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Olson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim, the actress who played Nellie Olson on the show. If you’ve read the books or seen the show, I’m sure you remember Nellie. For those of you who haven’t, Nellie was a spoiled little girl who was a thorn in Laura’s side for years. Laura and Nellie competed in the books, but the TV show took their enmity to new levels. Arngrim’s book is another great read for Little House fans.
My current read is called The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, by Wendy McClure. Unlike the previous two books, this one focuses less on the TV show and more on the books. It follows the author as she delves into the world of the Little House books, going to see the places where the Ingalls family lived, learning how to churn butter, and learning more about what Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life was really like. (As it turns out, there was more than a little embellishment in those books!)
McClure’s description of the TV show got me so curious that I had to check it out from the library and watch a couple of episodes myself. Maybe I’ve become a bit too jaded, but I found all those “heartwarming” story lines a little hard to stomach. I had stopped watching the show after a few episodes, but I’ll probably continue my Little House reading with the series itself. Or, despite never having been a huge Mary fan, I may decide to round out my reading with The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House, by Melissa Anderson, the actress who played Mary on the show.
Any other Little House fans out there? I’d love to hear your take on the show and the books!