Did you enjoy the Little House series (either in book or TV series) when you were a kid? Yeah, I'm a girl of the 70's. I remember there was a season in my life when I was obsessed with the stories and read them over and over (and over) again. Getting permission to watch the TV program was the highlight of my week. Okay, so I had no life. But Laura's story was one that captured me and still does to this day.
Company Information: Which leads me to today's review from Legacy Documentaries. Dean Butler, the actor who portrayed Almanzo Wilder, Laura's husband, in the long-running TV series, has produced two original documentaries, one on Laura herself and another one on her husband, that help round out the picture of prairie life back in the 1860s.
Product Reviewed: Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura documentary on DVD.
This over 50-minute long video is divided into two parts: the first part focuses on details and information about Almanzo's life and history, much of it from his early childhood as depicted in Farmer Boy. Much of the documentary is filmed on location at the Wilder homestead in Burke, NY. The second part shares about Almanzo's historical childhood home, now known as the Almanzo Wilder Farm, and its programs.
Age Range: ages 8-13, the recommended reading age of the Little House series. However, my 5-year-old watched it and enjoyed it too!
What We Liked:
- Lovers of the Little House books will enjoy seeing Garth Williams' beloved illustrations (in color) from Farmer Boy introducing different segments of the documentary.
- I personally enjoyed learning the history of the Wilder family (though my kids probably didn't appreciate it as much!). I was surprised to learn that there was more to Almanzo's family than I thought!
- I also appreciated the inside information on farming life and Morgan horses that help bring the story much more depth.
- Re-enactments of scenes from Almanzo's story in Farmer Boy helped my young son relate to him---and want to learn more!
- The entire documentary is very family friendly, with a strong emphasis on family relationships and hard work, essentials in the pioneer life.
What We Didn't Like:
I enjoy being able to learn more behind-the-scenes information like this. I don't have any complaints---I just wished it was longer!
When we finished watching the video the first time, Jonathan was intrigued most of all (no surprise) by the blacksnake whip that Mr. Corse uses on Big Bill Ritchie and his gang. He asked me if I had the book, so I found my tattered copy (with the cover almost falling off) of Farmer Boy. He paged through the book and then asked me if I could read it to him. We have now read through about half the book, and he is enjoying it immensely.
I am not a big fan of books-turned-into-movies (which this isn't), or if my kids want to watch them, I generally insist on reading the book first before we watch it. In this case however, the documentary helped to whet Jonathan's appetite instead. Though the documentary covered a lot of details about Almanzo's life, it didn't give it all away. Instead, it helped to give my little guy a sneak peek into an era that was very different than our own...and motivation to explore this much-beloved series for himself.
Even if he never reads any of the other Little House stories (though I do have Little House in the Big Woods scheduled for our reading list this year!), I am glad he had a chance to meet some of my favorite people from my own childhood years. I may need to check out the other documentary on Laura's life! If you want, these documentaries, plus some of these other goodies could become a very substantial unit study.
Whether you want to introduce the Little House books to your kids or give them more to supplement their reading, check it out!