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Wendy McClure/The Wilder Life
Did you grow up reading the “Little House on the Prairie” book series? Or secretly yearn to be Laura Ingalls? If so, join author Wendy McClure as she discusses her book, “The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie” on Saturday, June 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bel Air Library, 100 East Pennsylvania Avenue in Bel Air. The lecture, open to the public and free of charge, is followed by a book signing.
The lecture is part of Journey Stories, a Smithsonian exhibit based at the Abingdon branch of the Harford County Public Library from May 19 to July 6 that examines the intersection between modes of travel and Americans’ desire to feel free to progress and flourish, voyage and explore. Various cultural opportunities in conjunction with Journey Stories are being held in library branches and activity centers across the county.
In “The Wilder Life,” McClure writes about her love of the “Little House” books when she was growing up and how that love was rekindled as an adult. Retracing the pioneer journey of the Ingalls Family, McClure heads west to the Big Woods of Wisconsin, where Laura was born; to the site of the original log cabin, where a replica stands in its place; to the crowded shores of Plum Creek in Minnesota; and to South Dakota, where she weathers a hailstorm in a rented covered wagon.
She learns to churn butter in her living room while catching up on episodes of the 1970s television series; catches a musical adaptation with Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura in the television version) in the role of Ma; and enjoys a “Little House”-inspired cocktail called The Half Pint.
McClure rekindled her love of the “Little House” books thanks to her finding “Little House in the Big Woods”—the only “Little House” book she actually owned as a child—in storage and reading it again. Her boyfriend, Chris, found a vintage boxed set, and McClure read through them within weeks. Her interest in “Laura World” was sparked again.
“It took me a while to realize that my Laura journeys were a sort of response to my mother’s death,” explained McClure, whose mother died as she was re-entering “Laura World.”
“As a child I often imagined I was Laura, so in re-reading the books and making the trips I was embarking on all these indirect paths that eventually led me back to my own past. When you know that someone is gone, you find yourself cultivating places in your memory where you can still feel that person’s presence, and for me those places were very closely associated with the ‘Little House’ books.”
“The Wilder Life” has received praise in various circles, including from Alison Arngrim, the actress who played Nellie Oleson in the “Little House” television series. She called the book “a howling funny, historically thorough and irresistibly mad trip down the rabbit hole of the Laura Ingalls-Little House obsession that has consumed an entire generation of women. I spent seven years on the prairie, and this book made me want to run out and buy a butter churn!”
The June 2 event will feature McClure discussing her travels through “Laura World” and how the trip and the book were more and less rewarding than anticipated. A question-and-answer session will follow McClure’s remarks.
A book signing will be held after the discussion. Hardback copies of “The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie” will be available for purchase for $20 (cash, check, credit card) at the event.
To register for the event, call the Bel Air Library at 410-638-3151. For more information, visit www.hcplonline.org.
Journey Stories is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the Maryland Humanities Council. The Journey Stories exhibition and accompanying programs are offered to the public through a partnership between Harford County Public Library and the Harford County Department of Community Services.
Harford County Public Library operates 11 branches located throughout Harford County. The library serves more than160,000 registered borrowers of all ages and has an annual circulation of more than 4.8 million. Harford County Public Library is committed to connecting people with information and promoting the love of reading within the community.
More About Harford County Public Library
The Bel Air branch of the Harford County Public Library is located on the corner Hickory and Pennsylvania Avenues, adjacent to town hall. This two-story building has a large children's section as well as a wide selection of DVDs and other electronic media. Beth LaPenotiere is the branch manager at this location, which also has a convenient drive-up window.