On February 10, 1957, the Little House on the Prairie went dark, forever, marking the passing of its creator and beloved author, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Twelve years later, at the age of five, and on the brink of becoming an avid reader, I moved to Europe with my family.
We spent six wonderful years in Switzerland, highlighted by coming home every summer for a month-long leave filled with friends and family reunions, back-to-school shopping trips, and magical visits to the book section of Sibley’s department store. My sister, Maureen, and I spent hours browsing the book-lined walls, seeking out new adventures in reading, our arms filling like overflowing baskets until we couldn’t hold anymore.
Maureen, who loved everything horses, favored two series in particular: The Silver Brumby, and Flicka. But I was drawn to the stories of a little girl growing up in the Midwest in the 1870s; Pa, Ma, and Laura’s sisters Mary and Carrie, became my family, too. I hated the bully, Nellie Olson, and loved the farmer boy, Almanzo Wilder, the author’s future husband. I was never happier than when I was reading a Little House story, and it crushed me to close the book on Laura and her family after reading all eight titles in the series; they were far too precious to donate to a library or hawk at a yard sale, instead I read them again, repeatedly.
Fifty-nine years after her passing, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories live on. The original Little House books have remained continuously in print since their publication in the 1930s and early 1940s. In a 2012 survey published by School Library Journal, Little House in the Big Woods was ranked number 19 among all-time best children’s novels. Wilder’s stories have been adapted for television and stage as well. As for me, the Little House books hold a place of honor, front and center, on my bookcase where the reading light never goes out.