An Orange for Christmas

Oranges appear several times in Laura’s books. The mostly closely associated with Christmas is when Almanzo gets one in his stocking (FB p.316 – Page numbers refer to classic paperback edition in Chapter “Christmas”). You have to remember that Almanzo’s family was better off and closer to stores than Laura’s usually was. The most dramatic story is when Almanzo unexpectedly returns to DeSmet on Christmas eve, having planned on spending the winter after their engagement with his folks in Minnesota. He pulls a whole bag of oranges out of his pocket, one for everybody for Christmas (THGY p.229 – Chapter “The Night Before Christmas”). The most detailed story about an orange is not at Christmas at all, but at Ben Woodworth’s birthday party where a whole orange is served to each person, carved to make it look like a flower (LToP p. 246-248 “The Birthday Party”). Times were getting better in DeSmet.

Sarah Sue Uthoff


Wilder Events

I would like to congratulate  many of the Laura sites on getting their 2008 dates up in a timely manner. It has certainly helped with my list in Laura events (look for the 2008 dates there sometime in late December) and for those planning their trips. The sooner they get the dates set (and stick to them) the better for everyone. 🙂  In the mean time, look at these sites:


Sarah Uthoff

Pepin Newsletter, Sesquicenntial and Calender

The newest issue of the Pepin Newsletter is filled with information about Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin last September, especially of interest are the winning essays from the annual essay contest this year. Two special prizes were awarded, one to Shirley Knakmuhs (associated with the Walnut Grove museum from its second organizational meeting until last year) and one to David Sterling (who did some ground breaking work on Mildred Boyle and Helen Sewell, see articles by him in “Almanzo Wilder Stories” from the Franklin County Historical Society and the DeSmet’s Memorial Society’s “Laura Ingalls Wilder Lore”).

Looking ahead Pepin is celebrating its sesquicentennial in 2008. If it’s anything like my town’s was everyone will have learned to spell a new word by the end of the year. 😉 My favorites are the Brothers of the Brush and Sisters of the Swish contest, so I hope they are having those. Watch this spot for a tentative schedule. Scheduled events include a Harvest dance on Oct. 18th. They are also selling a calendar of Pepin scenes for $6.50 (including shipping), call (715) 672-5709 to order yours today.

Sarah Sue Uthoff

Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane

A recent article in the Beatrice Sun (hometown paper of the National Homestead Monument) talked about a patron’s perfect Christmas gift to the library. He choose Rose’s book. Read more about it, here:


Sarah Sue

P.S. I just broke the link to make it fit better on the page. Click on the remaining link and then copy the rest and paste it in the URL window after what comes up with the link.

Book – The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene

What Would Nancy Drew Do?
What Would Nancy Drew Do?

I’m way behind in posting by book posts, so hopefully I will catch up soon. Watch for more in coming in as holiday break gets here. Technically this was a re-read, but I very much enjoyed listening to this on tape during my drive to work recently. In fact, I liked it so much that I listened to it twice.

Nancy’s Best Advice

Nancy is on one of those overnight trips in which she throws together an elegant overnight bag. In fact, Nancy always keeps a packed bag in the trunk of her blue convertible for emergencies, a very good piece of advice that I follow in real life. It’s gotten me out of a couple of different jams. Be like Nancy and always keep a packed overnight bag in your car!

Don’t Spoil the Plot

The main action of The Haunted Staircase proceeds on two fronts. First, Nancy’s father, Carson Drew, is dealing with an attempt to blackmail the railroad into giving property owners who had already sold more money. Second, a “ghost” is haunting Twin Elms, home to Nancy’s good friend Helen’s grandmother and great-grandmother. How is someone doing the haunting? Are there secret passages in the old house? Are there more than one? How are the two cases woven together? It keeps you wondering to the end as Nancy faces down a runaway truck, a collapsing ceiling, a cabby reluctant to talk, an owl, and a rude man. All this without Bess, George, or Ned yet being at her side.

Nancy Drew Is From Iowa and Other Lovely Things

The Hidden Staircase was originally written by Mildred Wirt Benson, an Iowa author who did a lot to make Nancy a competent, Midwestern girl. In fact this one is a bit of deviation because it plainly takes place in the East, somewhere where there are colonial plantations. Benson’s original books were written in the 1930s and, except for the stereotypical stock background characters, still make a good read with their description and depiction of everyday life.

I grew up on the edited down 1950s versions (yellow backs) and still have fondness for this set, although much of the description and character development was thrown overboard in an effort to lower reading level, decrease page numbers, and increase modernity. This recording was the 1950s version. I enjoyed it and Benson said it was one of her favorites. I especially enjoyed the secret passages and memorizing the pattern of walking up the steps without creaking which many years ago kept me, and I’m sure many other kids, busy trying to work out a pattern for our steps at home. Nancy Drew is a great dream (she even rescues her father in this one). Pick one up and rediscover the dream today!

Want to learn more about Nancy Drew? Check out this episode of my podcast:

Episode 13 – Barbara Lounsberry Talks Nancy Drew
Join us for a very special Trundlebed Tales episode where we talk Nancy Drew and her author Mildred Wirt Benson.

UPDATED December 12 2017: I added a photo of me in a Christmas present the year I took it, a What Would Nancy Drew Do? t-shirt. I also clarified and added a couple of sentences and the headings. Plus I added a link to my Nancy Drew podcast.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Changes in Pepin’s Little Miss Laura Contest and Photo Contest

There were several changes in the Little Miss Laura Contest after almost 80 girls competed for the title last year (2006). This year they divided the girls by age. They had a winner for each age eligible (8, 9,10, and 11 years old). This seemed to go much smoother and, although it still took all afternoon, I don’t think it cut into the fiddle contest time like last year. There was also some confusion about who had to where when, resulting in more girls having to hang around the stage with nothing to do than I think the organizers would like and I expect to see some further change in this next year. This is still mainly a contest about looking like the best Laura fan, although they do have to answer questions both in writing and orally in front of the crowd. As there are no real duties assigned (as in Burr Oak), it’s open to girls from all over the country. It’s the center of Laura based activities at Pepin’s “Days” and always draws a big crowd. Visit it yourself September 13-14, 2008.

On that same page you will see that Pepin is sponsoring a photo contest of Pepin area photos until Dec. 31, 2007. I’ve sent in my entry, have you?

Sarah Uthoff

Little House on the Prairie (Independence) on MySpace

A link was recently posted on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Literary Society listserv to the Independence Kansas site MySpace page. I try to check all the Laura websites periodically, for example, I just added the Independence Christmas event to my list of Wilder events. However, most of the type of the information I was seeking (newsletter, update on site goals, information about their events) hasn’t been showing up there because, starting a year ago, it was on their MySpace page instead without any indication on their regular website that was the case or that there even was a MySpace page. So now I know. Check it out for yourself. Or go to and Search for Little House on the Prairie.
They also seem to be attempting to restart memberships with the indication there would be a mailing to members (I’ve paid a membership the last time they tried this and had signed up on line and didn’t get a notice from either place). This was on their website for the last year, under Sign up to be a Friend which I admit I hadn’t checked having signed up to be a friend more than once already. You can find their application and membership rates here, or on the MySpace page.

 Sarah Uthoff