Archive for the ‘Little House’ Category

Unabridged Martha and Charlotte at FUN Books

March 8, 2007 @ 1:39 pm | Filed under:

The always delightful Nancy of FUN Books—one of my favorite homeschooling resource suppliers—has let me know that she has copies of all my unabridged Martha and Charlotte books in stock, except for The Road from Roxbury. That’s FUN as in Family Unschooling Network, and if you haven’t explored their collection of fun educational materials, you are in for a treat.

("What do you mean, unabridged?" Explanation here and here.)

Little House: Answering Your Questions

February 11, 2007 @ 8:15 am | Filed under:

Is it true they are getting rid of the Garth Williams illustrations in Laura’s books?

Only in the new paperback editions with the photographic covers. The Garth Williams art will still appear in the hardcover editions of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, as well as the colorized paperback editions.

Are Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books being abridged?

No, only the Martha, Charlotte, Caroline, and Rose books are being abridged.

I want to buy the original, unabridged editions of your Martha and Charlotte books. How can I be sure that’s what I’m getting?

The new, abridged editions will have photo covers. The unabridged editions have the painted covers that appear in my sidebar.

Can you give me a list of all your books in order?

The Martha books are:

Little House in the Highlands
The Far Side of the Loch
Down to the Bonny Glen
Beyond the Heather Hills

The Charlotte books are:

Little House by Boston Bay
On Tide Mill Lane
The Road from Roxbury
Across the Puddingstone Dam

Oh no! Is The Road from Roxbury (unabridged) already out of print? I can’t find it at Amazon.

Try smaller booksellers such as those affiliated with the various Little House museum sites around the country.

And thank you so very much for your interest!

Related posts:
Little House news
More about my decision

Poetry Friday: Rigs o’ Rye

January 26, 2007 @ 4:47 pm | Filed under: ,

This lovely old Scots ballad made its way into my first Martha book, Little House in the Highlands. I thought it particulary fitting in light of what little we knew about the real Martha Morse: that she married a man her family considered to be beneath her station, and she went to the New World to marry him and make a new life. "The lad, he was of courage bold; a gallant youth, nineteen years old; he’s made the hills and valleys roar, and the bonnie lassie, she’s gone with him…"

I loved those lines so much I quoted them in the dedication to Highlands.

The Rigs o’ Rye

‘Twas in the month of sweet July,
Before the sun shone in the sky;
There in between twa rigs o’ rye,
Sure I heard twa lovers talking.

    He said, "My dear, I must gang away,
    No longer can I bide wi’ you,
    But I’ve a word or two to say,
    If ye hae the time to tarry.

"Of you, your father he tak’s great care
Your mither combs doon your yellow hair,
And your sisters say that you’ll get nae share
Gin ye follow me, a stranger."

    "My father can fret and my mither frown,
    And my sisters twa I do disown,
    If they a’ were deid and below the ground,
    I’d follow wi’ you, a stranger."

O, lassie, your fortune it is but sma’
And maybe it will he nane at a’,
You’re no’ a match for me ava,
Gie your love, lass, unto anither."

    The lassie’s courage began to fail,
    And her rosy cheeks grew wan and pale,
    And the tears come trinkling doon like hail,
    Or a heavy shower in summer.

He’s ta’en her kerchie o’ linen fine,
And dried her tears and kissed her syne:
"It’s greet nae mair, lass, ye shall be mine,
I said it but to try you."

    This lad he was of courage bold,
    A gallus chiel, just nineteen years old,
    He’s made the hills and the valleys roar,
    And the bonnie lassie, she’s gane wi’ him.


This couple they are married noo,
And they hae bairnies one or two,
And they bide in Brechin the winter through,
And in Montrose in summer.

This week’s Poetry Friday roundup can be found at Chicken Spaghetti.

I, Caroline, Take You, Charles

January 9, 2007 @ 7:20 am | Filed under:

Jennifer of As Cozy as Spring has me cracking up over her take on Pa Ingalls this morning.

Pa is driving me nuts!  Obviously, I would not have been out there
on the frontier.  I can see the conversation between my husband and

Him: "I honey, I’m bored.  I am going to drag you and our young
daughters away from our extended family to live across the country in
the middle of nowhere and you can sleep on the ground while I build you
a log cabin."

Me: "What will we eat?"

Him: "Well, I’ll go off hunting all day while you tend to the chores
and take care of the children.  I’ll bring home dead animals for you to
clean and cook."

Me: Baffled silence.

The conversation continues. Too funny. And I’m so with you, Jenn. As a child, I always thought Ma was a bit cold. The Ma of the books, that is, as compared to the smiling-eyed Ma on TV. In the books, it seemed like no matter what Pa did, no matter how narrow the escape or how great the accomplishment, Ma’s response was always just "Oh, Charles." My heart was with Pa of the grand gesture, the wanderlust, the thirst for adventure. I scoffed along with Laura at the quiet, settled types who were unaccountably reluctant to hit the trail again.

And then I had kids. The end of Little House on the Prairie gives me such a pang, now. Caroline had just gotten her garden going. It tore me up to leave behind my berries and butterflies in Virginia. Imagine if that garden was one of your primary food sources and you’d worked your tail off to get your carefully guarded seeds into the ground! And now you find out the house is three miles on the wrong side of the line, three miles. Jenn’s take on that scene is dead on.

Caroline Quiner Ingalls, I give you much more props now that I’m a mama too.

Little House Sing-Along

December 14, 2006 @ 12:46 pm | Filed under:

Remember all those great songs Pa Ingalls played on his fiddle? Ever wished you could hear them? A very kind reader just sent me the link to Arkansas Traveler, a program airing on NPR which features songs and stories from Laura’s Little House books.

A Prairie Home Companion‘s regular Riders in the Sky and other
Nashville artists provide musical performances, and actress Cherry
Jones reads selected stories from the books. Hosted by Noah Adams.

Songs Heard In This Show:

  • "F.C.’s Jig" – Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz Trio
  • "Darling Nelly Gray" – Thomas Hampson (baritone) and Armen Guzelimian (piano)
  • "The Arkansas Traveler" (arr. David Guion) – Eugene Rowley (piano)
  • "Money Musk" – Pa’s Fiddle Band
  • "The Girl I Left Behind Me" – Pat Enright and Pa’s Fiddle Band   
  • "Arkansas Traveler" – Pa’s Fiddle Band
  • "The Irish Washerwoman" – Pa’s Fiddle Band
  • "Old Dan Tucker" – Elizabeth Cook and Pa’s Fiddle Band
  • "Amazing Grace" – Mark O’Connor
  • "Summer" from Harvest Home Suite – Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
  • "The Blue Juniata" – Riders In the Sky
  • "The Gum Tree Canoe" – Buddy Greene and Pa’s Fiddle Band
  • "Uncle Sam’s Farm" – Riders In the Sky
  • "Cold Frosty Morning" – Butch Baldassari and David Schnaufer
  • "The Devil’s Dream" – Butch Baldassari and David Schnaufer
  • "Happy Land" – Peggy Duncan Singers and Pa’s Fiddle Band

I pecked out many of these tunes from  The Little House Songbook several years ago, after which "Bonny Doon" (a song not included in the radio program, alas) became one of my favorite sweeping-and-scrubbing songs. (Right up there with "Loch Lomond," which my poor children have heard me belt out so many times that they probably shudder at the mere phrase "take the high road.") But I never learned "Nelly Gray"—wasn’t that one of Laura’s favorites?— and I hope I can get my computer to cooperate and let me listen to the radio show. Right now it’s being obstreperous.

Thanks so much, Monica, for the heads-up on this!

More Changes Coming

December 12, 2006 @ 7:13 am | Filed under:

A Publisher’s Weekly article discusses some of the changes in the works for the Little House books. (Laura’s books are being reissued with new photographic covers and without the Garth Williams art, and no, I’m not thrilled about it.) You’ll still be able to get Garth’s art, though, both in the hardcover editions and the colorized paperbacks, which are being kept in print.

If you’d like to hear my editor’s thoughts on the reissues, check out the comments at Fuse #8.

Unearthed: The Notebooks

September 25, 2006 @ 5:45 pm | Filed under: , , ,

I found 1997 in the bottom of a box today.

1997 was the year that brought two of the most significant events of my life, and my family’s life. It was in March of 1997 that Jane, then 21 months old, was diagnosed with leukemia. A few months later, in her hospital room, I received a phone call from my wonderful editor at HarperCollins, telling me the Laura Ingalls Wilder estate had loved the sample chapter I had been commissioned to write, and they wanted me to write the Martha series.

The talks about my possibly writing Martha had begun months earlier, before any of us had the faintest inkling that there was something terribly wrong with my sweet baby. I had written a chapter (which later became the ending of Little House in the Highlands) and, huge Little House fan that I was (and am), was immensely excited about the prospect of diving into Laura’s family archives and writing books about her great-grandmother. There were actual letters from Laura in those archives! I would get to read them! I would get to try to write books worthy of being shelved next to hers! It was thrilling to contemplate.

And then one day Jane was covered with bruises, and the whirlwind swept us up and dumped us in a children’s hospital on Long Island, where we spent most of the next nine months fighting for her life.

By the time the call came, she was well into chemo. Her hair was falling out. She threw up all the time, usually on me. She lived on ketchup and breast milk. I was learning how to gauge the degree of her fever by the touch of her hand. She was hooked up to multiple IVs day and night.

I wasn’t thinking about writing any more. What I did was take care of Jane. I slept in her hospital bed with her, I changed the dressing on her central line catheter, I swabbed out her mouth with antiseptic and antifungal rinses. I read to her for hours at a stretch, until my voice went hoarse. I sculpted enough little Play-Dough people to populate, well, a cancer ward. I inhaled the scent of toxins from her skin, I took her for walk after walk up and down the corridor, past the nurses’ station and the other patients’ rooms, dragging her i/v pole alongside us.

Scott spent every minute he could at the hospital, but eventually he had to go back to work. He’d race out to Queens each evening, bringing us dinner (which Jane never ate), clean clothes, a book for me to stare at after he dragged himself back to our apartment at night.

Oh, the nights were the worst. You can’t sleep in a hospital. The lights, and the nurses, and the pumps beeping, and the loud voices in the hallway, and the trash cans being emptied with a bang. I would get Jane to sleep, her poor face paler than the pillow it lay on, a cord snaking out from her chest to a dripping bag on the pole beside the bad. I would watch her sleeping and feel grateful I had been given another day with her, and write about that day in a blank book that my friend Alice had given to me the week the nightmare began.

She knew I would need a place to write about what was happening.

That was one of the notebooks I found in this box today. Between the scrawled notes about which doctors had done what are snippets like this:

The other night her i.v. was beeping; she looked at the pump and announced, “Fusion complete.” Gave “timentin” to her baby. Told Daddy he was her best friend.


6:15 a.m. wake up, realize Jane has soaked through all the bedding, both sheets beneath and blankets above. Change her, and then the nurse comes in to say she’s running 100.1 axillary, so could I give her some Feverall. Yeah, right. Try for ten minutes, she pukes up the one sip she swallows, we give up. Jane is now wide awake. I turn on Sesame Street and doze while she plays Barnyard Bingo, using the curve of my body as a recliner.


Or this one, dated 9/27/97, which follows a lull:

This has been a tough month. Not just all the inpatient time, but also the deaths of three of our little friends here: Eric, Jen, and Tiffany.

I don’t want to write about that.

It’s official now that I’ll be writing the Martha books. And Jane herself is exploding with new words and new skills. In clinic one day, the two of us sat eating lunch by ourselves. Jane looked up at me and said, “Me have really good time with you, Mommy.” Melt…


When HarperCollins offered me the books, I wondered if I could possibly manage to write them with all that we were going through. But the nights in the hospital were so agonizingly long. Better to work, I thought, than to sit there marking the hours by the dripping of the drugs into my baby’s veins. When you spend a lot of time in a hospital, there’s a real danger of getting broody. The worry can consume you. You have to forcefully turn your thoughts to something else. Work helps, if it’s the right work.

Martha was. The folks at Harper sent me a laptop to use at the hospital—awfully sporting of them. And they lined up a researcher in Scotland to hunt up answers to my forty thousand questions, since obviously I couldn’t get out to hunt them up myself. I spent the next two months poring over notes in the dim room while Jane slept the sleep of the drugged, and one night I took a deep breath and started to type.

Loch Caraid was a small blue lake tucked into a Scottish mountain valley. On its shore were a half dozen cottages that had no names and one stately house that did. It was called the Stone House…

…and I was off.

Oh, what Martha gave me during those long, hard nights! Highlands is the story of a little girl running freely on the grass, rolling down hills, poking in the corners of the kitchen, getting into scrapes, doing all the things I was afraid my own wee lass might never have the chance to do. My friend Elizabeth, herself a cancer survivor, recently pointed out to me that I talk a lot about Martha’s hair in that book. She is always shaking her heavy curls off her shoulders. Every last wisp of Jane’s hair was gone by the time I started writing, all those fine golden strands swept away by a janitor’s push-broom.

I found my Highlands notebook in the same box today, crammed with descriptions of houses and furniture and meals and customs. There’s a line about how floorboards often had holes in them near one end, holes bored at the lumberyard so that a rope could be threaded through to keep them stacked for the journey on rough, rutted tracks that could hardly be called roads. Next to this interesting snippet I scribbled a large star and the words, “COULD BE FUN—HAVE MARTHA DROP SOMETHING THROUGH HOLE TO ROOM BELOW.” In the years that followed, I wrote three different chapters involving Martha dropping something through a floorboard hole: twice I had her tormenting a guest by raining nuts upon his wig, and twice I axed the episode as not quite in character. I think somewhere in Highlands she pokes her toe into a hole while her mother is brushing her hair; and in Heather Hills I finally used the floorboard hole to full advantage when she desperately needed to get a message to young Lew Tucker, the blacksmith’s son, in the kitchen below.

I wrote Heather Hills here, in Virginia, and it’s strange to remember the details that took root way back in that hospital room in New York.

More from the hospital book:

November 1997—lost first broviac, got new one.
—finished last IV chemo on Thanksgiving Day
—we are pregnant!


December—Bone marrow biopsy on 12/6—still in remission.


Feb 98—Rocky. J has fever. Low potassium. Is utterly lethargic.


4/23, pretty bad again. Not wanting to walk. I asked Dr. R. if we could d/c the Dapsone. She agreed, somewhat doubtfully.


3rd day off Dapsone. Jane jumped out of bed and said, “I would like Daddy’s leftover gnocchi for breakfast.” !! First voluntary mobility in three weeks. We were floored. She devoured a dishful, then two big slices of raisin bread.


Best moment by far—I watched her running in circles on our bed, holding a pair of underwear in one hand, a piece of raisin bread in the other [INTERJECTION: WHAT IS IT WITH THE RAISIN BREAD?], singing:

I‘m dancing
I’ll never stop dancing
I’ll never stop eating
I’ll never stop doing either of these things.
I’m having fun
Whoa, I’m having fun

How do I express how moved I was by this, and how grateful?


5/20  She has begun to tell long imagined stories. Is also very excited about “her” baby and often kisses my tummy and talks to it.

She saw the word “Kalamazoo” in a book and said, “Look, Mommy! Zoo!”

Oh, and she’s got her curls back.

Proud Author Moment

September 11, 2006 @ 12:04 pm | Filed under: ,

Awesmom was kind enough to share these delightful photos of the supercool high-rise complex her children constructed out of books. Martha and Charlotte provide crucial structural support. I am honored. With great effort, I am refraining from making bad puns about building the imagination…


May 23, 2006 @ 7:23 am | Filed under:

A young Highlands reader requested a recipe for bannocks. I just happen to have a good one…there are many variations, of course, but the basic recipe is very simple and has endured for centuries: mix uncooked oatmeal with a little melted fat, a dash of salt, and just enough water to make a thick dough, and form into flattened balls. Fry ’em on a hot griddle like pancakes. Yum.

That’s the bare-bones version. (I’m doing a lot of bare-bones versions of things this week, aren’t I?) Here’s the good recipe I mentioned, a teensy bit more sophisticated, but still the simple, traditional, basic bannock. It comes from Rampant Scotland, which has an extensive collection of authentic Scottish recipes, including cock-a-leekie soup, shortbread, and (shudder) haggis.

Scottish Bannocks (Oatcakes)

4 oz (125g) medium oatmeal
2 teaspoons melted fat (bacon fat, if available)
2 pinches of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Pinch of salt
3/4 tablespoons hot water
Additional oatmeal for kneading

Mix the oatmeal, salt and bicarbonate and pour in the melted fat into the centre of the mixture. Stir well, using a porridge stick if you have one and add enough water to make into a stiff paste. Cover a surface in oatmeal and turn the mixture onto this. Work quickly as the paste is difficult to work if it cools. Divide into two and roll one half into a ball and knead with hands covered in oatmeal to stop it sticking. Roll out to around quarter inch thick. Put a plate which is slightly smaller than the size of your pan over the flattened mixture and cut round to leave a circular oatcake. Cut into quarters (also called farls) and place in a heated pan which has been lightly greased. Cook for about 3 minutes until the edges curl slightly, turn, and cook the other side. Get ready with another oatcake while the first is being cooked.

An alternative method of cooking is to bake them in an oven at Gas5/375F/190C for about 30 minutes or until brown at the edges. The quantities above will be enough for two bannocks about the size of a dessert plate. If you want more, do them in batches rather than making larger quantities of mixture. Store in a tin and reheat in a moderate oven when required.

Catholic Culture records one old Scottish tradition involving bannocks:

Bannocks were baked before daybreak on Christmas morning. One was given to each member of the family. They were often flavored with caraway. The cake was marked in quarters by the cross, but, thin as it was, each person had to keep his cake whole through all of Christmas day. If, when the evening feast came, the cake were broken, bad fortune would fall on the careless one’s head. If the cake were still Christ’s bread, whole and entire, then joy and prosperity would be forthcoming.

Then of course there is the May Day custom I wrote about in Highlands: marking bannocks with a cross before they are baked and rolling them down a hill on the first of May, hoping one’s own oatcake made it to the bottom in one piece. A bannock that broke on the way down boded no good for its owner…

I will add this recipe to the Martha page.