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Rachael Walker

In this special series, children's literacy consultant Rachael Walker and many of the authors, parents, and educators she’s met and worked with talk about how books have changed their lives, how to bring books to life for young readers, and how to enrich kids’ lives with good books. (Also visit Rachael at her blog, Belle of the Book.)

Shopping for Little House Keepsakes and Gifts

December 1, 2014

After our trip to the Ingalls’ Homestead, we headed back to the little town on the prairie. With time for a leisurely stroll down Main Street in De Smet, we decided we had to stop in Loftus General Store — where during the Long Winter, Laura and Carrie bought suspenders for Pa for Christmas and the wheat procured for starving De Smet citizens by Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland was sold.

Laura and Carrie had better luck than we did at Loftus’ store. No blue suspenders with bright red flowers and brass buckles in stock! Despite the many other Ingalls’ related trinkets, we left empty handed.

What to take home from visits to Laura’s homes? Not the bobble-head Laura or the resin replica china shepherdess! On our travels, we found that most gift shops have pretty much the same collection of merchandise. So if you passed on a souvenir in Pepin, Wisconsin, or De Smet, South Dakota, there would be another chance to scoop it up elsewhere along the Laura Ingalls Wilder Highway.

With our thoughts on Laura and Carrie’s shopping excursion, we pulled together our list of treasured purchases and how we were going to distribute them to friends and family. You may want to put some of these items on your own wish list. Most of the museum gift shops offer their wares online (see the links below), so you can gather up all sorts of goodies — large or small — for birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions.

Books. The whole “Little House” series is a must, but if you’ve already have read these volumes till they’re dog-eared, try some of the books about Laura’s life or get a songbook, a cookbook, or a book of paper dolls. We bought or ordered these and know they will be great resources for pretend play, parties and activities for years to come.

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Photographic Story of a Life by Tanya Lee Stone
  • The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker
  • My Book of Little House Paper Dolls: The Big Woods Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Renee Graef
  • Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Smith Hill

Slate board

Dry Goods. Items that help to recreate the flavor and texture of Laura’s life are both precious and practical. A lunch pail, a tin cup, a slate and slate pencil are all good choices for hands-on living history fun. For playing school and to put ourselves in Laura’s shoes as both a student and teacher, a McGuffey’s Reader — a popular reading series in the 1800s — and a bell for teacher’s desk are a must. And stick candy gives Breece and Avery a taste of Laura’s Christmases — almost everyday!

Slate board

Bonnets. Sunbonnets, aprons and prairie apparel have special appeal for those who want to dress up like Laura — especially when the garments are handmade locally. There’s quite an assortment of sunbonnets in Rachael’s suitcase. Janet is holding out for the perfect bonnet to update her Laura Ingalls Wilder costume. Avery is drawn to the dresses, but has decided to look for a pattern for making one at home. It is still fun to try them on though!

Bonnet

Also available are prairie garments for dolls and some specialty doll accessories that can turn dolls at home into any one of the Ingalls sisters. And if you want your own Charlotte rag doll, there are many to be had. Of course, it may be more fun to make your own doll and clothes — even if it is just a corncob Susan.

Ornaments are a good keepsake choice. Featuring scenes from the Little House books and Laura’s life, these decorations provide the chance to relive travel adventures every holiday season, to enjoy them daily as décor in the kitchen or office window, or to give as gifts to family and friends equally fascinated with Laura’s life.

And for those who are the most devoted of fans, there’s an ornament for wearing. For $350 you can purchase a reproduction of Laura’s engagement ring (garnet and two pearls) in white or yellow 10K gold!

Laura's engagement ring

The ring and other treasures may have been out of our price range, but we know we are bringing home new enthusiasm and valuable knowledge that we can both treasure and share.

Museum gift shops for online shopping

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"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox