TOS Review – Almanzo Wilder Documentary DVD…

I have always been a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  And while I like most of the books, Farmer Boy has, by far, always been my favorite.   So, when the TOS Review Crew had the opportunity to review two documentary DVDs, about Laura or Almanzo, my first choice was the film about Almanzo.  photo almanzowilderlifebeforelaura_zps15bde20c.jpg
Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura ($21.95), by Legacy Documentaries, is about the Life of Almanzo Wilder.  Produced by Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder on the Little House television series, this 53 minute documentary covers the era that Almanzo grew up in, including details about his family beginning before Almanzo was born, to after he married Laura.   We learned all sorts of information that we didn’t know from the books, and I really appreciated how the morals of the day, like hard work, integrity, accountability, and a focus on family, were forefront in the documentary.

The footage is varied, using different mediums like aged footage, old photos, film from the homestead site, Garth Williams color illustrations, and historians talking to the audience.  We did not find it boring, or monotonous.  The kids actually enjoyed the occasional illustration, recognizing it from the text.

The film actually has 2 parts, the first is about Almanzo life, while the last 12 minutes of the footage is a virtual tour of the current/restored Wilder homestead in Burque, (northern) New York.  It is a great resource if you would like to visit the area, pointing out the current locations of happenings in the book (like the place where Almanzo found Mr. Thompson’s wallet, or where you can find where their Hardscrabble School was, and what is located on the site now).  This part of the film explains how the Wilder homestead was discovered, restored, and what it is like now (and how you can visit! – added to our bucket list!!!  :)  and even the best time of year to go!).  Did you know that the Wilder homestead is the only house described in the Little House series, that is still located on it’s original foundation?  Me neither!

When we got this to review, I realized that my younger group of kids had not read/heard the Little House series.  The olders had, but our copies are in storage, and we just had not taken the time to do them as a read-aloud.  I had a copy of Farmer Boy, that I had picked up in a thrift store (due to it’s color Garth Williams illustrations), buried in a cupboard in the camper, so we pulled it out and began to read it.  We watched the documentary, for the first time, when we were just over half way through the book – I hadn’t had a chance to preview it and wasn’t sure if we should have watched it before we began the book, or saved it until after.  I think that it would be great for either – before we began reading, it would have whetted their appetite for the story, and if we had waited until after, it would have been a bit of review mixed in with extra information about the big picture.  :)

Almanzo Wilder: Life before Laura, is geared towards ages 8 to 13, but I feel that younger, and definitely older students, would be interested in this.  We found it to be a great addition to our Farmer Boy read-aloud, and are now trying to figure out how we are going to visit all the different Little House sites mentioned in the books, and that are available to tour!

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also has 2 other films, besides Almanzo Wilder.  Little House on the Prairie: the Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Pa’s Fiddle (DVD): The Music of America (Homage to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Father).  We will be working our way through the first few Little House books as soon as we finish the last couple of chapters from Farmer Boy, an I plan on ordering the Laura Ingalls Wilder DVD to supplement those books.   I am all excited to hit the road and visit some of these Little House sites that we drive by every year!  :)

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Lilla Rose

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