Little House in the Thames Valley

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Surveyors House1I was a bit of a book worm as a child. I would close my bedroom door, away from the noise of my four siblings, and get lost in a story. My favourite was the Little House on the Prairie series. I imagined myself as Laura, living in a dug out in the wild west, fighting grasshopper swarms and looking after my blind sister. I begged my mother to buy me a bonnet and make to hush puppies for dinner.

In the summer of 1976 my ten-year-old self, my parents and two of my brothers, jumped into our light brown station wagon (estate) and drove 3,000 miles across the United States. It was the Bicentennial, 200 years after the US had signed the Declaration of Independence, and my parents were teachers so we all had all summer to discover America.

I talked my father into taking a detour off Highway 55 to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Surveyor's House in DeSmet, South Dakota. At the time, this was a sort of Mecca for me. I remember it all so clearly: We arrived after a six-hour drive, piled out of our station wagon, and an old man quickly came over to us.

"I bet you're here because of Laura."

I was shy, and only nodded, but my mother told me later that my eyes suddenly became very, very bright.

"I knew Laura AND Mary," ths old man said.

Well that was it for me, I fainted and they had to take me to the local hospital to revive me.

Just kidding.

the man turned out to be the curator, and he really did know Laura and Mary. He told us all about Laura and how the Pioneers lived.

My husband is reading the Little House series to our girls. They are absolutely fascinated. It took them a few days to get over the grasshopper swarm scene and they were gutted when Pa was lost in a snow storm at Christmas. They hate Nellie. They also want me to make hush puppies, which of course I am all to happy to do.

Which series/books did you read as a child and have you shared your favourites with your children?


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  1. 17/10/2010 / 07:24

    Oh gosh, I need to show my daughter this post! She’ll be in awe!!

  2. 08/10/2010 / 11:11

    I also loved the Little House and Narnia books as a girl. My mum read me ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ at a pretty young age (pre school). Sure gave her a sore throat, but I really enjoyed it. Can’t wait till my kids are just a little older and I can dust off the Tolkien collection and stock up on lozenges…

  3. 06/10/2010 / 16:49

    Me too! I also loved all of Judy Blume’s books as well as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven series of books.

  4. 06/10/2010 / 13:47

    I loved the Little House series! My grandma read them to me until I was old enough to read for myself. And I still have the boxed set. My grandparents and I went on many driving vacations with their ‘travel trailer’ across the US and we took in all the sites still around from the series–South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas (or was it Missouri?) my memory is a bit vague now, but I remember loving those destination vacations.
    I asked my mom to bring the old boxed set over a few years ago for my daughter to read. She was completely unimpressed. I was so sad! Perhaps she was too young. I will try again. And again and again, until she gives up and reads them and tells me she loves them. Joking 😉

  5. 05/10/2010 / 14:26

    I loved the show too (see post: /
    I recently went online to see how much the DVD set was – over £100. Why can’t they repeat it every holiday like they used to?

  6. 04/10/2010 / 21:25

    I loved Little House on the Prairie as well. Can’t wait to read Narnia to my boys and along a Lord of the Rings theme, loved the Chronicles of Prydain (Taran the Wanderer etc). Haven’t read them since I was 8 though so not sure whether they would hold up to the test of time.

  7. 04/10/2010 / 16:00

    Little House on the Prairie was seminal. I was given the book set, aged 5 apparently. Devoured them, and them my Mum and Dad did likewise. I pretty much read everything going after that…..

  8. 04/10/2010 / 13:11

    How gorgeous! I was a Roald Dahl fan as a child, but also used to love Jill Murphy ‘The Worst Witch’ (before it became a TV series) and I remember being totally taken back by The Hobbit. A fantastic read.
    Some books never age. Witches is one of them, as is Matilda x

  9. 04/10/2010 / 04:47

    My mum read the little house series aloud to us, and I loved it and remember the stories vividly. I ate books as a kid, E Nesbit (the five children and it series), narnia, Enid blyton. I also loved ‘my friend flicka’ and other horsey stories. My mum has all my old books at home, can’t wait to share them.

  10. A Modern Mother
    02/10/2010 / 18:12

    We’re into the R Dahl books here too, and have visited his home/museum. They have a great tea shop. I love that i actually like the books we read together now.

  11. A Modern Mother
    02/10/2010 / 18:05

    What a lovely memory, and love you’re daughter’s ingenuity.

  12. Suzanne
    02/10/2010 / 11:36

    As a child I loved “The Chronicles of Narnia”, and many of the Roald Dahl books.
    My children have also all loved Roald Dahl, but with both the older two “Harry Potter” has captured our hearts and imagination, and we have all devoured all seven books.
    The “Twilight” series was also great to share with my teenage daughter.
    I love how reading can bond and be such a great source of discussion and conversation.
    Lovely post.

  13. 02/10/2010 / 11:22

    What a lovely post. I read Beatrix Potter to my children – her syntax is a bit strange and the punctuation’s appalling, they can’t have had editors in those days, but it’s lovely to see Mrs Tiggiewinkle again. What’s more we all went on family holidays to the Lake District and my parents live there now not half an hour from Beatrix’s place, and they’ve just taken my daughter there. The house is terribly dingy because they’ve kept it as it was in B’s day, no electric lighting. My daughter turned to my mum and said ‘I can’t really see,’ then whipped a clip on torch out of her handbag and clipped it to the top of her guidebook. That’s my girl. She’s six. There has been something magical about seeing the drawings of Lucy walking up the valley towards Mrs Tiggiwinkle’s house and remembering how they sparked my imagination when I was a girl.

    02/10/2010 / 06:47

    Not sure why we don’t have the magic tree house series here too, a mystery, like lost socks…

  15. amodernmother
    02/10/2010 / 06:46

    We haven’t got into Twighlight yet … but I guess that is coming

  16. Iota
    02/10/2010 / 01:14

    Mine (both boys and girl) have enjoyed or are enjoying Laura Ingalls Wilder.
    They’ve loved The Magic Tree House series too. I can’t imagine why on earth no English publisher has put that into English bookshops. It would be so popular. I love it.

  17. Antonella
    01/10/2010 / 22:23

    I used to love the Little House in the Prairie too. My favourite character was Mary, as I thought that Laura was a bit of a know-all. When I was a kid I used to read (and watch) Pippy Longstocking and I’ve been reading it and watching it with my daughter before she become a crazy Twilight fan! I rest my case. Ciao. A.

  18. Susanna
    01/10/2010 / 18:09


  19. Susanna
    01/10/2010 / 18:08

    It’s way more fun to get engrossed in a life that bears no relation to your own, much more of an escape

  20. Susanna
    01/10/2010 / 18:07

    DeSmet is a bit of a trek from NY, but who knows you may do a road trip before you leave

  21. Susanna
    01/10/2010 / 18:06

    We’ve been there too, great museum

  22. 01/10/2010 / 16:50

    We’ve been reading the Famous Five and listening to the CDs in the car. They sound so terribly British, with lots of lashings of lemonade!
    I never read Little House on the Prairie but loved the TV series. Did you know the mom is now advertising walk-in baths? That made me feel very old!

  23. 01/10/2010 / 14:41

    Of course that last line should have been “I NEVER made a visit.”

  24. 01/10/2010 / 14:40

    In England, similar faves were the Mallory Towers books by Enid Blyton, and another series called St. Clairs (I think). They were about very upper class girls (now that I htink about it) going to boarding schools and I loved them. They bore no relation to my life as they talked about their gardeners and nannies, but I soaked it all up. Sadly Mallory Towers was pure fiction so I made a visit!

  25. nappyvalleygirl
    01/10/2010 / 13:50

    I loved Laura and Mary too – and would love to visit De Smet. Not sure if I can persuade the whole family to go to South Dakota though…
    I also loved Anne of Green Gables, What Katy Did and anything by Noel Streafield.

  26. 01/10/2010 / 13:27

    I have had great pleasure sharing the wind in the willows with the boys and we took them to Henley too

  27. A Modern Mother
    01/10/2010 / 12:09

    I was! And I was called daddy long legs. But that is a whole other post.

  28. 01/10/2010 / 12:04

    Gosh – weren’t you tall? I also loved Laura Ingalls and I’m looking forward to sharing them with Lils when she’s old enough.