Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fiction: The Little House Books: The Library of America Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Caroline Fraser

In 2012, books are easy and everywhere. They are downloadable and sometimes disposable. And even while the world goes mad and the book world rocks on its heels, there has never been a time where the entire planet has been more literate. And I can’t imagine there’s ever been a time when we talk about books quite this much.

Into this climate of literature that is easily and inexpensively available, books that are beautiful and special begin to make more and more sense. Some publishers are answering this call, producing lovely and precious hardbound versions of books that will likely mostly sell electronically.

Over the past few years, The Library of America has been picking up steam in bringing to market an increasing number of books so lovely and well thought out they seem precious. The nicest of these I’ve seen has been the recently published collection called The Little House Books, which of course brings together all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels that focus on that familiar Little House on the Prairie as well as some related writings. Included in the collection are: Little House in the Big Woods (1932); Farmer Boy (1933); Little House on the Prairie (1935); On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937); By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939); The Long Winter (1940); Little Town on the Prairie (1941); These Happy Golden Years (1943), and the posthumously edited and published The First Four Years (1971).

Published in a charmingly bound two-volume set, The Little House Books includes a newly researched chronology of Wilder’s life and career and some historical notes.

Missing, from my viewpoint, was an essay by editor Caroline Fraser, that might have offered contemporary comment on the work she has here bound together. Other than that, The Little House Books offers another opportunity for those who loved these books as children to gift them beautifully to a new generation of readers. ◊

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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