Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill (Editor)

When I was growing up, I watched Little House on the Prairie on TV, and read the books and role-played with my friends. We’d walk along the creek between our two homes and be Mary and Laura heading to town, or going berry picking. I loved Laura Ingalls as much as I loved Nancy Drew.

So when Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography came out, I had to check it out.


I was overwhelmed at times. It was almost too much of a good thing. The notes often overtook the story and continued for several pages when the text did not. If Laura mentioned garter snakes, there was a long paragraph about what garter snakes are (including their Latin name), The mention of roses blooming brought another long paragraph describing prairie roses common in South Dakota.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography is even more thorough. Any person that was mentioned was given a biographical sketch and often a picture, including their life and death, regardless of how significant they were to Wilder’s life. There is even corroboration of weather events. Nothing was left out.

So I decided to just read the main text of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography and forget the footnotes for a while because it was all so overwhelming.  Laura’s actual story was familiar in some ways and revealing in others. You could tell that the work was a rough draft, though, as the story did not always flow the way her children’s stories do. That was well worth the read. Then I went back and read the footnotes.

If you’ve never read an annotated book before, you might be bogged down with all the notes, because they are plentiful. Read the main text first, then go back and read the footnotes that interest you.

If you’re familiar with annotated volumes, you’ll find a wealth of information in Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. This book is worth it to any Laura Ingalls Wilder fan.

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