Growing up I loved all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember watching the TV show when I was just a preschooler with my mom. Later, I loved watching reruns and then reading the books. My children also love the Little House series. Recently we were given the opportunity to review a documentary Legacy Documentaries called the Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Dean Butler, the actor who played Almanzo Wilder in the TV series, produced this documentary. Through photographs, actor portrayals, interviews, and artwork, the story of how Laura Ingalls Wilder went from a poor girl on the prairie to a famous author. The documentary primarily chronicles her adult life as a wife, mother, and writer. Where stories from her childhood are related, they are done so in relation to the books she wrote. It highlights successes, trials, and failures in her life as well as some of the creative decisions she made in her story writing.
Documentaries can be hit or miss with how interesting they are to elementary age students. We really enjoyed this one. It captured the attention of Tiger, Butterfly, and Pumpkin Pie, but especially the older two. I think it helped that they were familiar with the Little House series. As the film made references to various books and stories within them, both Tiger and Butterfly kept commenting on the books being discussed and reminiscing about the books.
I loved the way the documentary showed not only the growth of an author, but also how Laura went about becoming a strong writer. It clearly showed how much effort was put into writing her novels including editing decisions and the elements of fiction. The comments made about writing apply to all budding writers. What an inspiration!
I also liked the small snippets of truth vs. fiction that were highlighted. For example, Nellie Olson wasn’t one person in Laura’s life but a compilation of various people. I also learned about parts of Laura’s early life that were skipped in the novels. In addition to the setting straight of the records, interesting facts were presented about how the books have been used, relationships between people and nations, and themes of the works. Did you know that The Long Winter was translated into Japanese to help the Japanese understand American values following World War II?
So, what did my children think?
Pumpkin Pie said, with a smile, “I enjoyed it. I want to read one of those books.” (She has had them read to her but hasn’t read them to herself. This is just one more inspiration to get her reading more!)
Butterfly said, “I liked it. I want to see a movie about The Little House in the Big Woods now.”
Tiger said, “I thought it was cool. I liked it depicted the life of Laura while she was writing rather than depicting her childhood.”
There you have it! The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder costs $24.95. It is intended for the whole family but especially 8-13 and up. In addition to The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the crew also reviewed another documentary: Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura.