HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: On the Way Home
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, reissued in 1976
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 8012
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wilder, Laura Ingalls. On the Way Home (originally published in 1962 and reissued in 1976 by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10019). Die-hard Little House fans will already know the information that I am about to provide, but there may be some others who do not. Laura Ingalls Wilder is credited with being the author of at least two other books which are not part of the original “Little House” set. They are On the Way Home which is the diary of the trip that she, Almanzo, and Rose made from their old home in DeSmet, SD, to their new home in Mansfield, MO, in 1894 (we have visited “Rocky Ridge” near Mansfield, which is now part of the Laura Ingalls Wilder–Rose Wilder Lane Museum). It has an introduction and a conclusion by Rose, but the middle section is Laura’s own record of the journey by horse-drawn wagon, across the Missouri River, through Nebraska and Kansas, into the Ozarks. The other is West From Home which is a set of letters written by Laura when she visited Rose to see the World’s Fair in San Francisco, CA, in 1915, to Almanzo who remained back at the Rocky Ridge farm. It has an introduction by editor Roger Lea MacBride, who is one of the foremost Laura Ingalls Wilder scholars in the world, but most of it consists of the actual words that Laura wrote to Almanzo.
I had seen these books listed in catalogues, but did not know much about them until I was in a B. Dalton bookstore and picked them up because the store was having a “buy two, get one free” sale on all the “Little House” and related books. The two books do not have the same degree of flowing readability that the “Little House” books do, most likely because what was written was not intended for posterity, as Laura certainly did with the “Little House” books. However, they are still important books for several reasons. First, they are just plain interesting reading. Second, they give some glimpses into the later life of a remarkable woman who became one of America’s best-known children’s authors and whose name is practically a household word in this country, almost synonymous with “pioneering,” because of the books and the television series. And third, they provide insight into how the times about which they were written affected the lives of everyday people who were living then.
They are also useful in that they open doors for further study. Using On the Way Home, a student could also study the history and geography of the four states involved– South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, as well as some of the famous places visited (Lincoln and Beatrice, NE; Topeka, Ottawa, and Fort Scott, KS; Springfield, MO; the Missouri and Platte Rivers). In addition, the story could occasion a general study of the historical events which were happening in the nation and the world in 1894. Using West From Home, a student could also study the history and geography of California, especially San Fransisco (the famous earthquake and fire had occurred only nine years prior) and the surrounding area (many place names are mentioned), and even the Pacific Ocean which Laura loved so much to visit and watch while there, as well as a general history of the nation and world in 1915. In addition, some recipes which Laura collected at the World’s Fair and published in the Missouri Ruralist are included in the book and can be tried. So, if you have not already done so, you may want to add these two books to your collection of the “Little House” books. I think that you and your children will enjoy them every bit as much as the other. At least, they were fascinating to me.