cover image Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Yona Zeldis McDonough, illus. by Jennifer Thermes. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9542-5

Fans of the Little House series will welcome this opportunity to immerse themselves in the lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. McDonough’s (The Doll Shop Downstairs) slender, restrained biography offers answers to readers’ questions about which parts of her fiction are “true,” clarifying the differences between the stories and Wilder’s life. But the book, with few direct quotations from available diaries and letters, lacks Wilder’s voice and has little of the vivid detail and warmth of the fictional stories, reading like a somewhat-flat abridgement. Thermes’s playful, Lois Lenski–like pencil illustrations add welcome spirit and character, evoking Helen Sewell’s original illustrations of Wilder’s books more than Garth Williams’s well-known artwork of the 1950s editions. Other enhancements are McDonough’s thoughtful discussion of the controversy about the role Wilder’s daughter Rose played in the creation and publication of her mother’s books, and extensive back matter, which goes beyond the expected glossary and book lists to include recipes, directions for playing period games, and instructions for making a corn-husk doll. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Judith Ehrlich, Judith Ehrlich Literary Management. Illustrator’s agent: Marietta B. Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (Sept.)