It's Christmas morning 1970-something and the world as I knew it was about to change. From the moment I tore off the colorful wrapping paper and discovered my very own "Little House on the Prairie" Box Set, Laura Ingalls became my hero. I wanted to wear a sunbonnet while making maple candy in the snow. Or what could be better than lying in your trundle bed with a favorite cornhusk doll, falling asleep to the sound of Pa's fiddle by the fire? I was hooked; I didn't just identify with the character, I wanted to BE her.
Turns out, I'm not alone. Wendy McClure, like generations of little girls who have read the series, found something innately appealing about the sassy, pig-tailed Half-Pint. She read the books, watched the TV show, and imagined taking her best pioneer pal to the local mall.
Years later, she rediscovered her childhood love and decided to explore the difference between the fictionalized and real-life Laura Ingalls Wilder. Equal parts travel diary and memoir, "The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie" is McClure's personal spin on all things Laura.
Beginning her research at home, McClure attempts to make butter (after a lengthy search for just the correct churn), bake Long Winter bread from hand-ground seed wheat and learn everything there is to know about the Ingalls family history. She gleans information from online blogs, countless books and numerous Little House fan sites.
The real adventure begins when McClure and her oh-so-patient boyfriend take various road trips across the Midwest in search of the many Ingalls home sites. From Wisconsin to Kansas, the couple jumps head-first into ‘Laura World'. They survive a hailstorm in a covered wagon (sort of), attend Nellie and Laura look-alike pageants, and even take in a Homesteader's Weekend (until they realized they were with a group preparing for world's end).
The book is a nostalgic look at a much-loved American family. It is poignant, funny and full of interesting facts about a series I enjoyed as a kid but knew little about. Although McClure's obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder might at times seem a little over-the-top, her obvious affection for the era and the earnest way she goes about re-tracing the author's life is endearing. If you've ever imagined being a frontier girl for even a moment, be sure to check out "The Wilder Life."
Recommended by Priscilla Garvin