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MUSA 22—The Ingalls Wilder Family Songbook

Edited by Dale Cockrell

The eight Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867–1957), anchored in her family’s history and filled with memories of frontier life, are cornerstone classics in American children’s literature. Embedded in them are citations to 127 pieces of music--from parlor songs, stage songs, minstrel show songs, patriotic songs, Scottish and Irish songs, hymns and spirituals, to fiddle tunes, singing school songs, play party songs, folk songs, broadside ballads, catches and rounds. No books in American literature of comparable standing and popularity feature America’s vernacular music so centrally, assign it such a major narrative role, and index it in such rich abundance.

This edition is a reconstruction of "the family songbook," based on the music referenced in Wilder’s books. Although no such object ever existed, her representations of music-making have likely informed the imaginations of more Americans than many a paper-and-bindings anthology, for what millions of readers have come to know about America’s musical heritage is what they learned from the Little House books—the titles and lyrics to songs; how songs and tunes functioned; where they were heard; what they meant; the importance of music to individuals, families, and communities. Wilder’s references and her evocative images of music-making thus form the basis of understanding about "American music" to many readers. The Ingalls Wilder Family Songbook is an effort to give fresh voice and sound to the music inscribed in these great books and new appreciation about how music functioned during a place and time important in American history and mythology.

Laura's Music

Laura's Music is a seven-volume series published by A-R Editions that contains musical selections from The Ingalls Wilder Family Songbook without the full edition's critical apparatus. Each volume in Laura's Music contains music from one or two of Wilder's books: By the Shores of Silver Lake, Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, Little Town on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, The Long Winter, and These Happy Golden Years.


Commercial recordings of musical selections from The Ingalls Wilder Family Songbook are available from