2012 is shaping up to be a big year for all of my childhood obsessions. The Lost Colony may have been found! We may know what happened to Amelia Earhart! And now it appears that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” may at long last be published. (If C. Thomas Howell makes a big comeback this year, we’ll know there’s something truly spooky going on.)
Now, I was pretty excited to read about the Lost Colony, and I believe I have read every word of every article about the search for Earhart, but I am geeked about “Pioneer Girl.” Let me explain: the first chapter book I ever read was Little House on the Prairie. I read it five times in a row before my mother explained to me that in fact, other chapter books existed and she would be happy to find some for me if I would just put that one down for a minute, please. Over the years I cajoled my grandmother into making me a pioneer dress, complete with pinafore and sunbonnet; I begged my mother to help me make snow candy; I talked about the books so incessantly that my father eventually forbade me to read them. I have vague memories of an argument with my elementary school librarian, who insisted on putting the Little House books in the fiction section (quelle horreur! As if Laura—yes, we’re on a first-name basis–would make things up!). I have been to Laura’s home in Mansfield, Missouri, three times and I still tear up every time I see Pa’s fiddle. Suffice it to say, I love Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Laura wrote “Pioneer Girl” in longhand in 1930 and tried several times to sell it. The effort proved fruitless, and she eventually repackaged it into several novels, which became the Little House series. What is interesting about the draft that will be published is that it is Laura’s original draft, before any editorial intervention. As you may know, there is a debate—fueled by William Holtz’s The Ghost in the Little House–about the degree to which Laura’s daughter Rose Wilder Lane is responsible for the final form of the Little House books. (This debate allows me to pretend that my interest in the publication of “Pioneer Girl” is grounded in some sort of scholarly pursuit, when in fact my jubilant reaction to the news is at least ninety percent straight-up fan-girl squeeing.)
The published book will be annotated by Pamela Smith Hill, who wrote Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, in my opinion the best biography of Wilder to date. Publication isn’t until June 2013, but there’s a blog to keep you up-to-date in the meantime. Or you can read The Wilder Life, by my fellow Laura Ingalls Wilder fanatic Wendy McClure, which is funny and touching and one of the best books I read last year.