Whether you are looking for the perfect present for the Laura Ingalls Wilder fan in your life or just what you want to know what to put on your Christmas want list, check out these suggestions.
This is the seventh year I’ve put together a shopping guide. Check the first post for basic gift ideas. Read that first and use this post to look for new items, other ideas, and a list of which Laura homesites are offering Christmas mail order and the cut off dates for shipping by Christmas this year. Trundlebed Tales encourages you to do at least a little Christmas shopping from the Laura homesites because they are all local museums, highly dependent on admissions and gift shop revenue to stay open and preserve the homesites for Laura fans, so do your part.
If your favorite Laura fan is planning a trip to Walnut Grove this year, consider buying them pageant tickets. The tickets are available for 2018 already and the earlier you buy tickets the better seats you can get. They mail them so you can get the tickets to go under the tree. Buy them either online or by phone if you want their advice for which seat. The phone goes into a business so you can always find someone there during business hours. (Note: I don’t advise pre-buying for the other pageants because differences in how their systems work.)
And don’t forget you can also get your Laura fan gift memberships to the museums or a donation in your Laura fan’s name!
What’s Not Available
I’m going to take a minute first and tell you some things that you aren’t able to get because there was expectation you would be able to get them. For the past 3 years the homesites have worked together to create a calendar with photos from all the sites. Unfortunately when I checked with the De Smet Memorial Society who makes them up, they’ve given up on doing one for 2018, but look for the 2019 one sometime this spring.
Also, this fall I was shocked when I checked with all the homesites and discovered in the last year we’ve gone from 3 versions of the china shepherdess replicas available to 0. Hopefully, at least 1 version will be available sometime next year (a couple of the homesites have a new version in the works), but for now your only choice is keeping an eye out for one second hand.
150th Birthday Items
With this being the 150th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birth, check out some of the unique things offered for the anniversary. There are special limited edition t-shirts from both De Smet and Walnut Grove. (Walnut Grove had a double reason to celebrate with the 40th anniversary of their pageant.) De Smet also came out with an updated and expanded 60th anniversary edition of The Ingalls Family of De Smet. There is a special china ornament from De Smet featuring a bust of an older Laura wearing her red velvet dress. Mansfield has created a special limited edition magnet from Mansfield with a middle-aged Laura’s image and a 150th anniversary slogan.
HarperCollins released a new edition of the first 3 books in the series. This edition is hardback, features matching covers, no illustrations, and an introductory essay by a famous person; Laura Bush, Little House in the Big Woods; Ree Drummond, Farmer Boy; and Patricia MacLachlan, Little House on the Prairie. I’m saving them to buy at one of my next homesite visits so I haven’t seen them myself, but the reviewer at Horn Book Magazine is pretty scathing about them urging people to buy the standard Garth Williams illustrated version instead.
Happily in honor of Laura’s birthday, HarperCollins released the audiobooks, as recorded by Cherry Jones, as digital downloads for the first time. Slowly throughout the year they’ve been re-releasing the simplified chapter books, such as The Adventures of Laura and Jack or the most appropriate Christmas Stories, with brand new covers. Six of the simplified picturebooks, illustrated by Renee Graef, are newly collected and published as one volume. It’s called a Little House Picture Book Treasury. Finally, they also put out The Little House Book of Wisdom, a collection of quotes from the series.
Quilt Discovery – Doves in the Window
One of the things I’m most excited about is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Wedding Quilt by Linda Halpin. Halpin has braved the untamed jungle that is quilt pattern names and makes a strong case that this is the pattern Laura calls “Doves in the Window” thought to be the one Laura made for her Wedding Quilt. It includes instructions for making the quilt pattern pictured here. Linda Halpin is also the author of Quilting with Laura: Patterns Inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie Series. Check out her interviews on the Trundlebed Tales podcasts about Doves in the Window and on quilts in the 19th century in general. You can get the pattern directly from her website, from Burr Oak (who has the original square that kicked off her search), and possibly from other homesites – ask.
While we are talking about crafts The Little House Coloring Book, a publication that takes into account the surge in adult coloring has been a big hit. It’s based on Garth Williams illustrations at any of the giftshops. There is also a great coloring book based on illustrations by Cheryl Harness is available at most homesites. See some sample pages.
South Dakota Historical Society Press
You’ll remember that when the SDHSP released Pioneer Girl in November 2014 a frenzy broke out as underestimated demand meant that even pre-published purchased copies from Amazon were months late and it found a long term spot on the bestseller list. With such intense interest, it’s no wonder that they’re planning on following up with a three volume set of scholarship about Pioneer Girl. The first volume was released this last April, Pioneer Girl Perspectives. It is be available from either the South Dakota State Historical Society or any of the homesites.
In honor of Laura’s 150th birthday and the release of Pioneer Girl Perspectives the South Dakota Historical Society Press held a conference in April. If you couldn’t go they have released a set of DVDs of the conference. I’m grateful that they did so we have a record of the sessions and I think that any serious scholar or anyone who wanted to go to the conference and didn’t get to will want a copy. However, be forewarned that the sound quality is bad. Basically they set up a camera and let it roll using the ambient sound in the room.
Some Homesite Highlights
Pepin didn’t report anything new, but my favorite thing is a green and white throw. It has images from the books including the Pepin replica cabin, Pa’s fiddle, and a bonnet. I won mine in the Laura Days essay contest, but you can buy and love one.
If you haven’t checked out the Little House on the Prairie Museum online store yet, poke around. They have a wide variety of possible presents including tote bags, candles, and coffee. I haven’t gotten one yet, but they have a variety of styles of shirts with their logo including tanks which are hard to find in Laura shirts. The most Kansas thing is a poster that I NEED a copy of called “The Yellow Brick Road” with a covered wagon following a path of yellow flowers across the prairie. Besides Laura, Kansas also claims a connection with Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum (“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”) hence the yellow “brick” road. They have a set of china Christmas tree ornaments each with a colorized image from the Helen Sewell books, one per book.
I’ve heard Walnut Grove called the homesite with the best gift shop and it is a very nice facility with a bunch of options. Although the grounds close for the season, the gift shop/visitor center is open all year. They have more things available than shown on their website so if you are looking for something in particular or want something you don’t see on the website, call them and talk. Aprons, bonnets, and dresses continue to be popular and they have a great selection. They also have a lot of the Queen’s Treasures collection of dolls and accessories. To have a memory of Walnut Grove on your tree check out their wood ornament.
Besides the quilt pattern I mentioned above, Burr Oak has Laura t-shirts featuring the hotel in bright primary colors to make a splash in your Laura shirt. They are the place to get The Iowa Story: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life in Burr Oak, Iowa by William T. Anderson. They also keep a stock of Old Town in the Green Groves by Cynthia Rylant which knowing Rylant’s other work should be much, much better than it is and takes a stab at fictionalizing the time missing out of the series when they lived in Burr Oak. (Spoiler: Pa suddenly starts calling Mary Pumpkin Pie — yep.)
The Memorial Society in De Smet has several new items this year. Besides the new edition of The Ingalls Family of De Smet and the t-shirt, I mentioned above, they have an exclusive cookie cutter shaped like the Surveyor’s House. In addition to the new china ornament with the older Laura in red velvet (which I just HAD to buy back in July), they have a complete set of the ornaments each one featuring a colorized Garth Williams’s illustrations from each book in the series. The older Laura one isn’t showing on their website, but give them a call.
The Ingalls Homestead, who developed the idea of wood crates to create a box set for the hardcover books, also has a wide range of products and some great news about shipping. They have free shipping for all orders over $25 this year through December 13. They also have rolled out digital gift cards for the first time. Use them online or over the phone for onsite purchases. Associate the Homestead with the covered wagon rides? They have a beautiful ornament of a covered wagon. (Yep, I got one of these on this last trip too.) Remember how excited Laura was about her Santa Christmas presents she got from Mr. Edwards? At the Homestead you can order tin cups with two sticks of peppermint, the heart shaped cakes and even a penny! A unique gift is squares of Ingalls Homestead homemade soap. They also have a wide selection non-Laura books of prairie/pioneer related subjects.
Harvey Dunn, nephew by marriage of Grace Ingalls and internationally known artist and illustrator, is best known for his connection with Manchester, the next town west of De Smet. The South Dakota Art Museum houses the largest collection of Dunn’s work. (It’s well worth your effort to stop in Brookings on your way to or from De Smet.) They have just released a reprint of Where Your Heart Is: The Story of Harvey Dunn, Artist. This current edition is available exclusively from the South Dakota Art Museum store.
Spring Valley is a smaller site, but they work on having unique things in their giftshop. One area they have a big selection in is the American Girl aka 18 inch size doll clothes. They are locally made and not mass produced. Colors may vary.
Besides the 150th magnet, Mansfield has several other cool magnets look at all of them. They have a couple of unique things that feature the Rocky Ridge farmhouse including a snow globe and a frame. They have also have boxed sets of the hardbacks in wooden boxes.
In Malone/Burke, New York, they’ve also redone their website. Check out the Mason Jar style mug with Almanzo’s name, their selection of mugs, and cachet hand painted envelopes. If your Laura fan doesn’t yet have the DVD documentary Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura. It was produced by Dean Butler (Almanzo on the TV show) and is either a great keepsake or a tour if you haven’t been to the farmstead. They also have a lovely print called “Coming Home” with the Wilder farmhouse and a sleigh. I have a copy.
I recommend contacting the sites by e-mail or online store instead of by phone, except where noted. Even places that have been easiest to contact by phone in the past I’ve had trouble calling, but most responded quickly by e-mail.
Walnut Grove MN
De Smet SD
Loftus Store Online
Phone: 605-854-3773 Call to order
Last Day for Priority – Didn’t give a date use your own judgment
Spring Valley MN
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum (Store not online)
Recommends using e-mail to order for Christmas, but you may want to include your phone number in the e-mail so they can get back to you with questions quickly.
Last Day for Priority – Didn’t give a date
Burr Oak IA
The best way for people to shop during the winter is through the website gift shop and then pay through Paypal. You can email the museum with questions. They are no longer accepting checks for orders because of some bad check incidents.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
Best to order online, but can also reach by phone 715-513-6383, or by sending a letter. Neither museum nor gift shop is open during the winter.
Last Day for Priority – December 18, 2017
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 Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.