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Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura Review by Kathy Gelzer

Dean Butler, producer
The Wilder Homestead
P.O. Box 283
Malone, NY 12953

This 40 minute documentary on the life of Almanzo Wilder, the Farmer Boy from the Little House books who eventually married Laura Ingalls Wilder, is appropriate for all ages. Adults and children alike will enjoy immensely seeing the actual upper New York state homestead of Almanzo Wilder's family.

Although it is a documentary, there is enough variety in the form of reenactment, beautiful cinematography, plenty of livestock footage, and interviews to keep young children interested. Our favorite technique was taking Garth Williams' original illustrations and making them three dimensional and further making them move while a female voice read the actual text of Farmer Boy with added sound effects. The map showing Laura and Almanzo's separate routes to their meeting place of De Smet South Dakota was especially interesting to me.

To fully appreciate this film, families should be familiar with The Little House Books and have read Farmer Boy. Without this, the DVD has no context.

The timeless values of family and hard work are evident throughout.

This documentary on Almanzo Wilder brings to life many of the experiences, incidences and traditions of the Wilder family such as mealtimes, weekly baths, Sundays, and the Morgan horses.

A bonus feature on the DVD is a fifteen minute "The Wilder Homestead Today" which shows viewers the Burke, New York home and farm where Almanzo grew up. This is the only house in the Little House books that still stands in its original place, and it is open to the public from May through September.

Product Review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2009