The cover of the newly published memoir reveals an idealized image of the young Laura Ingalls Wilder

In her annotations to the newly released Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s earliest-known memoir, editor Pamela Smith Hill perpetuates an idea that I think caters to a mistaken notion of fans—that Wilder was more in control of the famous children’s series—called the Little House books—than all of the evidence suggests. “Some critics have charged that Wilder could not write and that Lane was the creative genius behind the Little House books,” Hill writes in her introduction. “The transcription of the handwritten ‘Pioneer Girl’ illustrates instead that Wilder possessed raw talent and descriptive genius.” She then quotes one of Wilder’s beautiful sentences, a description of a sunset. To be sure, several sentences in “Pioneer Girl” will jump out at diehard “Little House” fans because those sentences went into the final books nearly unchanged.

But individual sentences do not a book make. Reading “Pioneer Girl” proves how far Wilder’s memoir lies from the narrative structure and technique of the “Little House” books. This publication of “Pioneer Girl” strongly suggests that without Lane, Wilder was a much different writer.

Read my full review of Pioneer Girl in the Boston Globe.

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