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Old Town in the Green Groves: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Lost Little House Years (Little House Series)

Overview

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote nine Little House books about her childhood growing upon the western frontier. But there were two years she didn't write about, two missing years that take place between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Now, Newbery Award-winning author Cynthia Rylant has imagined what those lost Little House years were like, based on Laura's unpublished memoirs. The result is the first Little House novel ...

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Overview

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote nine Little House books about her childhood growing upon the western frontier. But there were two years she didn't write about, two missing years that take place between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Now, Newbery Award-winning author Cynthia Rylant has imagined what those lost Little House years were like, based on Laura's unpublished memoirs. The result is the first Little House novel about Laura as a young girl in almost 60 years, and a wonderful addition to the classic series.

When the grasshopper plague returns to Plum Creek, Pa knows all the crops will be destroyed again. He decides to take the family east to Burr Oak, Iowa, where he has found work running a hotel. But Laura tongs to return to the tall-grass prairie and the unsettled west, to a place where Pa can play his fiddle in the open air and where she can feel free again.

Old Town in the Green Groves continues the story about Laura Ingalls — a story whose wonder and adventure have delighted millions of readers.

After grasshoppers ruin the crops, eight-year-old Laura Ingalls and her family leave Plum Creek and move to Burr Oak, Iowa, where they experience life in a small town and help manage a hotel.

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
The Little House on the Prairie series, featuring the frontier life of young Laura Ingalls Wilder, has been providing enjoyment to readers for decades. But there is a short period in Wilder's life between 1875 and 1877 that has never been addressed. In the original series, the family moves from Plum Creek straight to Silver Lake, ignoring the two years the Ingallses spent living in a small town in Iowa. Now fans can fill in that gap, thanks to Newbery Award–winning author Cynthia Rylant, who has crafted a story covering these missing years with the help of notes penned by Wilder herself.

At the start of the story, young Laura is eight years old and living with her two sisters and her parents in a rented house in Walnut Grove. They've come here, leaving their beloved Plum Creek home behind, to weather out the winter after an infestation of grasshoppers wiped out all their crops. Their homesickness is mitigated by a surprise visit from the stork, which gives the Ingallses their first son. Little Charles Frederick adds new life to the family in more ways than one, but it's a short-lived reprieve, for little Freddie proves to be a sickly child.

Tragedy seems a way of life for the Ingallses when they finally return to Plum Creek. First Ma takes ill and comes close to dying, then the family is driven away from their home once again by a crop-destroying infestation of grasshoppers. Forced to head south to Iowa, the family stops to spend the summer with relatives. While there they relish a bounty of family and food, but they also suffer tragedy when young Freddie finally succumbs. Upon reaching their destination in Iowa, life takes a decidedly different turn for this frontier family when they find themselves living and working in a hotel.

Fans of the Little House stories should find Rylant's work a welcome addition to the series. Writing with a loving feel for home and family, Rylant evokes the same indomitable spirit and sense of adventure that Wilder herself did. (Beth Amos)

ALA Booklist
“A well-written book that will answer many of the questions frequently asked by fans.”
Seattle Times
“Gently told—created in the same spirit as the earlier titles.”
The Horn Book Magazine
“Captures the essence of Laura’s personality and the structure and style of the original works.”
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-It is somewhat startling that Rylant should choose to cover a period of time about which Wilder herself chose not to write. Here the Ingalls leave their farm on the banks of Plum Creek to spend several years in Burr Oak, IA. Pa's determination is tested, but his pioneering spirit and hard work coupled with Ma's essential support and unending labor see them through. The death of a new baby who arrives at the opening of the novel is clearly painful to all; a birth near its closure is a reminder that life goes on. After several different homes in Iowa, the family returns to Plum Creek, where Wilder continued the story in By the Shores of Silver Lake. LaMarche's illustrations wisely focus more on things than on people, which helps to reduce their incongruity with Garth Williams's drawings. The characters are somewhat different here. Laura seems less of a tomboy and enjoys tea parties and talking about the dolls and rich furnishings of their small-town neighbors. Some of the events match quite closely with known biographical details, while others are definitely fictionalized. Rylant enjoys detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna much more than the original narrator. These small differences will not matter a whit to those insatiable for further Laura stories. For purists who want the classics left alone and are sure Wilder is rolling in her grave, the whole idea is strictly sacrilege. For most everyone else, this is neither a necessary nor valuable addition.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064409902
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/25/2004
  • Series: Little House Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 164
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.88 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Rylant's gift for conveying the enchantment and beauty to be found in everyday life is seen in such award-winning books as Missing May, winner of the Newbery Medal; A Fine White Dust, a Newbery Honor Book; and The Relatives Came and When I Was Young in the Mountains, both Caldecott Honor Books.

Books she's written and illustrated include the much-beloved Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven.

Cynthia Rylant grew up in West Virginia. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Jim LaMarche wrote and illustrated The Raft. He also illustrated Little Oh and The Rainbabies, both by Laura Krauss Melmed. He lives in Santa Cruz, California. In His Own Words...

"It's funny how things turn out. I wasn't one of those kids with a clear vision of the future, the ones who know at age five that they will be writers or doctors or artists. I liked to draw, but then, so did most of the kids I knew, and growing up to be an artist never really occurred to me. What I did want to be, in order of preference, was a magician, Davy Crockett, a doctor, a priest (until I found out they couldn't get married), and a downhill ski racer.

"But I always loved to make things, and once I got going on a project I loved, I stuck with it. Once, when I was five or six, I cut a thousand cloth feathers out of an old sheet, which I then attempted to glue to my bony little body. I was sure I could have flown off the back porch if I'd just had a better glue. Another time I dug up some smooth blue-gray clay from the field behind our house, then molded it into an entire zoo, dried the animals in the sun, and painted them as realistically as I could. I made a grotto out of cement, a shoe box, and my fossil collection. I made moccasins out of an old deerhide I found in the basement.

"I grew up in the little Wisconsin town of Kewaskum, the soul of which was the Milwaukee River. In the summer we rafted on it and swam in it. In the winter we skated on it, sometimes traveling miles upriver. In the spring and fall my dad took us on long canoe trips, silently sneaking up on deer, heron, and fields of a thousand Canada geese. And almost all year long we fished for bullheads and northerns from the dam.

"I began college at the University of Wisconsin as a biology major, but somewhere along the line—I'm not sure when or even why—I switched to art, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in art. I still had no idea of becoming a professional artist, however. In the meantime, I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and moved to Bismarck, North Dakota, to work with United Tribes of North Dakota creating school curriculum materials. It was a great job. Because there were only a few of us, I was able to try my hand at a little of everything: writing, graphic design, photography, and illustration. It was then that I slowly realized that it might be possible for me to make a living at art. I moved to California, and in the evenings-after working all day as a carpenter's assistant—I put together a portfolio.

"Twenty years later, I'm still here, living in Santa Cruz with my wife, Toni, and our three sons, Mario, Jean-Paul, and Dominic. The Pacific Ocean is only a few blocks away, and the scenery is very different from that of the Midwest, but somehow Kewaskum and the Milwaukee River show up in almost everything I draw. They provided the details of setting for The Rainbabies, Carousel, and Grandmother's Pigeon, and they are the setting for the book I'm working on now, my own story about the magic of a raft.

"I feel very lucky to have ended up as an illustrator of children's books. And maybe that isn't so different from my childhood dream of being a magician after all. Starting with a clean sheet of paper and with nothing up my sleeves, I get to create something that was never there before."

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Rented House

It was wintertime on the prairie, and things were changing all around Laura as she walked to school each morning. The wide prairie skies were no longer softly blue and filled with the voices of bobolinks and meadowlarks and sparrows. Now gray clouds had settled low over the land, and they promised a time of snow and cold and the hungry call of blackbirds in the brown, empty fields. Laura loved the winter for its stillness and its gray-white beauty. But she also knew it could be cruel. She had lived on the prairie long enough to learn that.

Laura was not so worried about what surprises winter might bring this year, for Pa had moved the whole family from their farm on Plum Creek to a snug little rented house behind the church in Walnut Grove. Walnut Grove was a newly settled town on the Minnesota prairie, and it was the safest place to be when the hard blizzards blew in and there was nothing to do but shiver and shake and wait until the storm gave back the land. On Plum Creek blizzards had been hard. Pa had nearly died in one. And some neighbors had died from being lost in the snow.

But in a little house in town the Ingalls family would be safer and happier. Pa wouldn't get lost in a blinding white storm as he drove the wagon home from town. He was already in town. Ma wouldn't worry so and watch the northwest sky for a low, black line of cloud. And Laura and Mary and Carrie would be more cheerful because they could go to school every day instead of staying in their lonely farmhouse all winter, restless and waiting for spring.

Laura liked school, and she was happy to walk there with her sisterseach day. Laura had not thought that she would like school, when she was littler. She hadn't wanted to be away from the warm company of Ma all day. She hadn't wanted to miss Jack, the dear brindle bulldog she loved so well. And most of all, she didn't want to miss Pa and his-happy blue eyes and his good cheer and his stories.

But Laura liked school now. She liked it more every day.

I like school," she said to Mary and Carrie as they made their way along the crisp dirt road leading to the schoolhouse. The sky was still not quite light, and Laura held little Carrie's hand for safety. Carrie was six years old now, but she was still the baby of the family.

"I love school," said Mary, adjusting her shawl against the chilly wind. I could live there if I didn't love home more."

Laura smiled. Mary had always been the best one at learning. Mary had always been the best at everything. She was kindest. She was the most patient. She minded Ma better. And she wasn't a tomboy, like Laura was sometimes.

Laura knew that she could never be as good as Mary, and she was glad that Ma and Pa had at least one good girl they could be proud of

I like singing the letters," said Carrie. "And tag."'

Laura smiled and squeezed Carrie's hand. Carrie was a good girl, too.

When the road ended, the girls followed the narrow path leading up to the little white schoolhouse sitting alone on the prairie. Laura could see Frank Carr carrying in the water bucket for Miss Beadle and James Harris toting a load of logs for the fire. Miss Beadle had arrived early and already started up a crackling fire in the pot-bellied stove and warmed up the frosty-cold classroom. But the cold prairie wind would blow all day long, and all day long the fire would want feeding.

"Good morning, Laura!" said Rebekah when the girls stepped through the schoolhouse door and into the cloakroom to take off their wraps.

"Good morning, Rebekah!" answered Laura. Rebekah was one of Laura's favorite friends. She always had a nice word for everybody and she loved to run, just like Laura.

When everyone had hung their wraps on nails and put their tin lunch pails on the cloakroom bench, it was time to go in and say good morning to Miss Beadle. Then school would begin.

Laura thought Miss Beadle was a fine teacher. She always looked so nice, in her pretty white bodice and her long black skirt and her dark hair pulled back and held with a comb. Miss Beadle always opened the school day with a prayer and a song. This morning the song was "Wait for the Wagon." Laura smiled as she sang, "Wait for the wagon and we'll all take a ride!" She was thinking of Pa and how much he loved taking a wagon west. Laura loved it. too. She could go west every day, her whole life long.

At the end of the school day, in a softly falling snow and a steady wind, Laura and her sisters walked back to their home in town. When they passed Oleson's General Store, Laura could see Nellie, Mr. Oleson's spoiled daughter, through the window. Laura imagined Nellie standing in front of one of the big store barrels, cramming her mouth full of candy until bedtime. Then Laura decided not to think about Nellie at all. She walked on toward the small church with the belfry on top. Behind the church there was home.

Soon Laura and her sisters opened the front door of their little rented house and stepped inside. Ma had a pot of beans on the stove, cooking with a side of pork, and the warm house smelled wonderful. Ma had always made every place they had ever lived wonderful. She called it making a place "homelike." And here, in this small house that wasn't even their own, she had done all the special things that made it home...

Old Town in the Green Groves. Copyright © by Cynthia Rylant. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

Old Town in the Green Groves
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Lost Little House Years

Chapter One

A Rented House

It was wintertime on the prairie, and things were changing all around Laura as she walked to school each morning. The wide prairie skies were no longer softly blue and filled with the voices of bobolinks and meadowlarks and sparrows. Now gray clouds had settled low over the land, and they promised a time of snow and cold and the hungry call of blackbirds in the brown, empty fields. Laura loved the winter for its stillness and its gray-white beauty. But she also knew it could be cruel. She had lived on the prairie long enough to learn that.

Laura was not so worried about what surprises winter might bring this year, for Pa had moved the whole family from their farm on Plum Creek to a snug little rented house behind the church in Walnut Grove. Walnut Grove was a newly settled town on the Minnesota prairie, and it was the safest place to be when the hard blizzards blew in and there was nothing to do but shiver and shake and wait until the storm gave back the land. On Plum Creek blizzards had been hard. Pa had nearly died in one. And some neighbors had died from being lost in the snow.

But in a little house in town the Ingalls family would be safer and happier. Pa wouldn't get lost in a blinding white storm as he drove the wagon home from town. He was already in town. Ma wouldn't worry so and watch the northwest sky for a low, black line of cloud. And Laura and Mary and Carrie would be more cheerful because they could go to school every day instead of staying in their lonely farmhouse all winter, restless and waiting for spring.

Laura liked school, and she was happy to walk there with her sisters each day. Laura had not thought that she would like school, when she was littler. She hadn't wanted to be away from the warm company of Ma all day. She hadn't wanted to miss Jack, the dear brindle bulldog she loved so well. And most of all, she didn't want to miss Pa and his-happy blue eyes and his good cheer and his stories.

But Laura liked school now. She liked it more every day.

I like school," she said to Mary and Carrie as they made their way along the crisp dirt road leading to the schoolhouse. The sky was still not quite light, and Laura held little Carrie's hand for safety. Carrie was six years old now, but she was still the baby of the family.

"I love school," said Mary, adjusting her shawl against the chilly wind. I could live there if I didn't love home more."

Laura smiled. Mary had always been the best one at learning. Mary had always been the best at everything. She was kindest. She was the most patient. She minded Ma better. And she wasn't a tomboy, like Laura was sometimes.

Laura knew that she could never be as good as Mary, and she was glad that Ma and Pa had at least one good girl they could be proud of

I like singing the letters," said Carrie. "And tag."'

Laura smiled and squeezed Carrie's hand. Carrie was a good girl, too.

When the road ended, the girls followed the narrow path leading up to the little white schoolhouse sitting alone on the prairie. Laura could see Frank Carr carrying in the water bucket for Miss Beadle and James Harris toting a load of logs for the fire. Miss Beadle had arrived early and already started up a crackling fire in the pot-bellied stove and warmed up the frosty-cold classroom. But the cold prairie wind would blow all day long, and all day long the fire would want feeding.

"Good morning, Laura!" said Rebekah when the girls stepped through the schoolhouse door and into the cloakroom to take off their wraps.

"Good morning, Rebekah!" answered Laura. Rebekah was one of Laura's favorite friends. She always had a nice word for everybody and she loved to run, just like Laura.

When everyone had hung their wraps on nails and put their tin lunch pails on the cloakroom bench, it was time to go in and say good morning to Miss Beadle. Then school would begin.

Laura thought Miss Beadle was a fine teacher. She always looked so nice, in her pretty white bodice and her long black skirt and her dark hair pulled back and held with a comb. Miss Beadle always opened the school day with a prayer and a song. This morning the song was "Wait for the Wagon." Laura smiled as she sang, "Wait for the wagon and we'll all take a ride!" She was thinking of Pa and how much he loved taking a wagon west. Laura loved it. too. She could go west every day, her whole life long.

At the end of the school day, in a softly falling snow and a steady wind, Laura and her sisters walked back to their home in town. When they passed Oleson's General Store, Laura could see Nellie, Mr. Oleson's spoiled daughter, through the window. Laura imagined Nellie standing in front of one of the big store barrels, cramming her mouth full of candy until bedtime. Then Laura decided not to think about Nellie at all. She walked on toward the small church with the belfry on top. Behind the church there was home.

Soon Laura and her sisters opened the front door of their little rented house and stepped inside. Ma had a pot of beans on the stove, cooking with a side of pork, and the warm house smelled wonderful. Ma had always made every place they had ever lived wonderful. She called it making a place "homelike." And here, in this small house that wasn't even their own, she had done all the special things that made it home...

Old Town in the Green Groves
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Lost Little House Years
. Copyright © by Cynthia Rylant. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 18, 2008

    Wonderful Writing!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I grew up about 15 minutes away from Burr Oak, Iowa, so this book has a lot of meaning for me. I have read all of the Little House books as a child and have passed them on to my girls. I have been to the museum and seen the cemetary there. This book comes to life for me. Also, I think it was a somewhat sad time in her life, so she chose not to write about it. However, the author used some of Laura's notes and information from her daughter Rose in writing the book, so I feel it is very accurate. I think Laura would approve of this accurate portrayal of her life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2005

    awesome!

    This book has so much in it that reminds me of Laura's writing! The writer has the same enchantment that Laura had so I suggest that every1 should read this! It's the captivating story that fills in the rest of the Laura Ingalls tales. I had always wondered until now what had happened to Laura. Wonderful! Absolutly wonderful!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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