The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books

by Website Editors | Aug 29, 2017

Our articles about recently-released books are good resources for readers interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie. Here is a brief overview of The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books.


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Author: Marta McDowell
Publisher: Timber Press (September 20, 2017)

A must-read companion to the Little House books.

2017 is the 150th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday. Her beloved Little House books tell a classic coming-of-age story based on Wilder’s own family life and is a reflection of the pioneer spirit of the time. They are also deeply rooted in the natural world. The plants, animals, and landscapes are so integral to the stories, they are practically their own characters.

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by New York Times bestselling author Marta McDowell, explores Wilder’s deep relationship to the landscape. Follow the wagon trail of the series, starting in the Wisconsin setting of Little House in the Big Woods to the Dakotas and finally to Missouri. Throughout, you’ll learn details about Wilder’s life and inspirations, discover how to visit the real places today, and even learn to grow the plants and vegetables featured in the stories.

The artful package includes original illustrations by Helen Sewell and Garth Williams, along with historical and contemporary photographs. The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a must-have treasure for the millions of readers enchanted by Laura’s wild and beautiful life.

About the Author: Marta McDowell
Marta McDowell lives, writes and gardens in Chatham, New Jersey. She shares her garden with her husband, Kirke Bent, their crested cockatiel, Sydney, and assorted wildlife. Her garden writing has appeared in popular publications such as Woman’s Day, Country Gardening, and The New York Times. Scholars and specialists have read her essays on American authors and their horticultural interests in the journals Hortus and Arnoldia.

Marta’s latest book, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, tells the tale of the plants and places of the beloved author of the Little House books. Timber Press published All the Presidents’ Gardens, a book that relates the history of American gardening as seen through the White House grounds. It made The New York Times bestseller list and won an American Horticultural Society book award in 2017. Following the relationship between the pen and the trowel led Marta to children’s author/illustrator Beatrix Potter and poet Emily Dickinson. In 2013 Timber Press published Marta’s book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales. It won the Gold Award from the Garden Writers Association in August 2014. Emily Dickinson’s Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and Gardener was published by McGraw-Hill in 2005. If you visit the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, you can stroll the grounds with a landscape audio tour that Marta scripted. She was an advisor for the New York Botanical Garden’s 2010 show, Emily Dickinson’s Gardens: The Poetry of Flowers, and worked with Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lenhardt Library on a Beatrix Potter exhibit in 2016.

Marta teaches landscape history and horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden where she has been twice awarded “Instructor of the Year.” A popular lecturer, she has been a featured speaker at locations ranging from the Arnold Arboretum to the Philadelphia Flower Show to the Beatrix Potter Society’s Linder Lecture at the Sloane Club in London. With artist Yolanda Fundora, Marta wrote A Garden Alphabetized (for your viewing pleasure) in 2008.

Marta interned at Wave Hill, Frelinghuysen Arboretum, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Rosemoor in Devon, England and at the Chelsea Physic Garden. She worked as a horticulturist for five years at Reeves-Reed Arboretum. Marta is a member of the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Historical Garden Foundation at the Cross Estate Gardens in Bernardsville, New Jersey. She received the 2016 Annual Award from the Friends of Frelinghuysen Arboretum. Her garden is included in the Smithsonian’s Archive of American Gardens.

About the Illustrators: Helen Sewell and Garth Williams
Helen Sewell was born June 27, 1896, in Mare Island, California.  Her father was William Elbridge Sewell, who later became Governor of Guam. She studied at the Pratt Institute, including classes with Alexander Archipenko. Her first book was published in 1923, The Cruise of the Little Dipper and Other Fairy Tales by Susanne Langer.  She continued to illustrate throughout her life, including some works for adults. Sewell was the first illustrator of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932 to 1943), replaced by Garth Williams in 1953 and subsequent editions. She died on February 24, 1957, in New York City.

Garth Williams began his work on the illustrations for the Little House books by meeting Laura Ingalls Wilder at her home in Mansfield, Missouri, after which he then traveled to the sites of all the little houses. His charming art caused Laura to remark that she and her family “live again in these illustrations.  Williams was well-known for his illustrations of classic children’s books and a fascinating interesting biography, Garth Williams, American Illustrator: A Life, was published by Beaufort Books in 2016.

Pick up your own copy of The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books here.

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1 Comment

  1. I love all of her stuff


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