Little House on the Prairie

From Academic Kids

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Sign in front of Little House on the Prairie historic site in Kansas

Little House on the Prairie (1935) is a children's book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It went on to become a series of books, multiple TV series, multiple TV movies, a cartoon, and is the name of a historic site in Kansas.



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The Little House series (also known as "Laura Years") was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and based on decades-old memories of her childhood in the Midwest region of the United States during the late 19th century. The best-known of the books is Little House on the Prairie first published in 1935. The books are told in the third person, and are generally classified as fiction rather than as autobiography. Wilder's daughter, author and political theorist Rose Wilder Lane assisted her mother with the editing of the books. The depth of her involvement, and the extent of her influence on the theme and content of the books, are unclear.

The books have remained continuously in print since their initial publication by Harper & Brothers, and are considered classics of American children's literature. Several of them were named Newbery Honor books. They remain widely read, primarily by girls aged 8–12. Anecdotal evidence suggests, however, that they are also popular among older girls and adult women who first encountered them as children. The edition of the series currently in print contains illustrations by Garth Williams.

The success of the Little House series has spawned many related books including two series ("Little House Chapter Books" and "My First Little House Books") that present episodes from the original stories in condensed and simplified form for younger readers. Other related titles include sticker and craft books, cookbooks, diaries, calendars, and so on.

Of greater literary interest are four series of books that expand the Little House series to include five generations of Laura Ingalls Wilder's family. The "Martha Years" and "Charlotte Years" series, by Melissa Wiley, are fictionalized tales of Laura's great-grandmother in late 18th century Scotland and grandmother in early 19th century Massachusetts. The "Caroline Years" series narrates the girlhood of Caroline Quiner, Laura's mother, in Wisconsin. The "Rose Years" (originally dubbed "Rocky Ridge Years") series follows Rose Wilder Lane from childhood in Missouri to early adulthood in San Francisco, and was written by her surrogate grandson Roger MacBride Allen.

Noted children's author Cynthia Rylant has written a slender volume, Old Town in the Green Groves, that covers the two years in Laura's life between On The Banks of Plum Creek and By The Shores of Silver Lake, which are unnarrated in the original series of books. Two volumes of Laura's letters and diaries have also been issued under the Little House imprint: On The Way Home and West From Home.

An additional series, The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by T.L. Tedrow offers tales of Laura's early adulthood in Missouri; unlike the core Little House books, the Tedrow series is not drawn from episodes in Wilder's life.

In recent years, controversy has surrounded the role of Wilder's daughter, author and political theorist Rose Wilder Lane, as either a silent editor or ghostwriter of her mother's books.

Wilder's Little House Books

  • Little House in the Big Woods (1932)
  • Farmer Boy (1933) — about her husband's childhood on a farm in New York
  • 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)
  • The First Four Years (1971, published posthumously)

TV series (1974–1982)

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Little House On The Prairie was an American one-hour dramatic television program that aired on the NBC network from 1974 to 1982. During the 1982–83 television season, the series was broadcast with the new title Little House: A New Beginning (see below).

The show was a loose adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder's best-selling series of Little House on the Prairie books. Michael Landon starred as Charles Ingalls, Karen Grassle played Caroline Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls, Melissa Sue Anderson played Mary Ingalls, and the twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush (credited as Lindsay Sidney Greenbush) played Carrie. The show got some controversy with its portrayal of Laura, who, in the show, is often mean-spirited and disobedient.

Although it deviated from the original books in some respects, the television series, which was set in Walnut Grove, Minnesota (whereas the real Ingalls family never lived there; they resided in De Smet, Dakota Territory) during the late 19th century, was (and still is in syndication) one of the few long-running successful dramatic family shows. Although predominately a drama, the program did have some comedic moments, thanks to supporting cast members such as the Olesen family (Richard Bull (Nels Oleson), Katherine McGregor (Harriet Oleson), Jonathan Gilbert (Willie Oleson), and Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson)) and Mr. Edwards (Victor French).

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While Nels (proprietor of the town's general store, Olesen's Mercantile) was a true friend of the Ingalls, Harriet was not; she often caused trouble by spreading malicious gossip or scheming behind her husband's back to foreclose on the Ingalls' farm. Nellie, the Olesen's oldest child, was a carbon copy of her mother, often very nasty and scheming to humiliate Laura. Willie, five years younger than Nellie, was a typical mischievous child and often aided his sister in her schemes. Both Nellie and Willie would change their personalities for the better in later seasons — Nellie after she married Jewish businessman Percival Dalton (played by Steve Tracy) in 1980; Willie in early 1982 after having a heart-to-heart talk with Laura, who was by then his teacher at Walnut Grove School. However, Harriet always remained true to her nasty, gossipy, scheming, troublemaking self, much to Nels' chagrin.

In 1979, Dean Butler joined the cast as Almanzo Wilder, the man 10 years Laura's senior that she would soon marry. Several episodes during the 1979–1980 season dealt with their budding relationship as it blossomed into true love. Almanzo and Laura were married in the 1980–1981 season première.

In later years, the Ingalls family adopted several children. First was 11-year-old Albert Quinn (Matthew Laborteaux), whom the family met when they moved (briefly) to Winoka in a series of 1978 episodes. In 1981, the family welcomed 12-year-old James (Jason Bateman) and 9-year-old Cassandra Cooper (Missy Francis), a brother and sister who were orphaned after their parents were killed in an accident. Also in 1981, the Olesens adopted a young orphan named Nancy (Allison Balson), who was 100 times nastier than Nellie ever was (and Harriet did everything to encourage her).

Also appearing in the series were Merlin Olsen (as Jonathan Garvey), Dabbs Greer (as Rev. Robert Alden, pastor of Walnut Grove Church), Karl Swenson (as Lars Hanson, the town's founder and proprietor of the town's mill) and Kevin Hagen (as Dr. Hiram Baker, the town's doctor). Michael Landon directed a majority of the episodes, although other people such as Leo Penn and Victor French occasionally took their turn at the director's chair.

Little House on the Prairie was largely filmed on Big Sky Ranch at Simi Valley, California, not in Minnesota. Though camera vistas sometimes pick up the rugged terrain, which is too mountainous for Minnesota, the oak savanna is considered to be representative of the real Walnut Grove. Other television programs, including Gunsmoke and The Dukes of Hazzard, were produced at the same Big Sky Ranch lot.

See the complete list of Little House on the Prairie episodes.

Spin-offs & Sequels

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The Ingalls girls frolicking down the hill.
A spin-off series of sorts, Little House: A New Beginning, built around star Melissa Gilbert, lasted only one season and aired from September 1982 until March 1983. A new family, the Carters (Stan Ivar as John, Pamela Roylance as Sarah, Lindsay Kennedy as eldest son Jeb and David Friedman as youngest son Jason), moved into the Ingalls' old home. Meanwhile, Almanzo and Laura (who had since given birth to a daughter, Rose), took in their niece, Jenny (played by Shannen Doherty), when Almanzo's brother died.

Three made-for-television movie sequels followed: Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983), Little House: The Last Farewell (1984), and Little House: Bless All the Dear Children (1984). Two other Little House movies were made in conjunction with the Landon series: the 1974 pilot for the program and Little House Years (1979), a Thanksgiving special/clip show that aired in the middle of Season 6.

Other Versions

Laura the Prairie Girl (1975)

A Japanese animated version of the Little House series was released in 1975 under the title 草原の少女ローラ (Sōgen no shōjō Laura; English: Laura the Prairie Girl). It ran 26 episodes, about 24 minutes each.

  • IMDb (
  • TvTome (

Beyond the Prairie (2000, 2002)

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Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, two television movies produced by Marcus Cole and aired in 2000 and 2002, presented episodes from the later books in the Little House series (from The Long Winter to The First Four Years).

The series starred Richard Thomas as Charles Ingalls; Lindsay Crouse as Caroline Ingalls; Meredith Monroe as Laura Ingalls; Barbara Jane Reams as Mary Ingalls; Haley McCormick as Carrie Ingalls; Walt Goggins as Almanzo Wilder; and Skye McCole Bartusiak as Rose Wilder.

Little House on the Prairie (2005)

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Made in 2004 and aired in April 2005, the six-hour (five-episode) miniseries Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie was broadcast on ABC as part of The Wonderful World of Disney anthology series. Unlike the Landon series, the 2005 miniseries stayed fairly close to the spirit of the books Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie.

The miniseries starred Cameron Bancroft as Charles Ingalls; Erin Cottrell as Caroline Ingalls; Kyle Chavarria as Laura Ingalls; Danielle Chuchran as Mary Ingalls; and Gregory Sporleder as Mr Edwards. It was directed by David L. Cunningham.

  • IMDb (
  • ABC (

Historic site

The state of Kansas has designated the childhood home of the Ingalls as a historic site, which is open to visitors. It is the location from which the events of the book Little House on the Prarie take place. It includes a cabin modeled after the original, and the original post office. Much of the surrounding countryside retains its open and undeveloped nature.

External links

es:La Casa de la Pradera fr:La Petite Maison dans la prairie it:La piccola casa nella prateria pl:Domek na prerii sv:Lilla huset på prärien


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