Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School: Book Review: Mary Ingalls on Her Own by Elizabeth Kimmel Willard

Mary Ingalls has the opportunity to attend the Iowa College for the Blind, so she can learn skills to make her more independent and expand her education. It is difficult to leave her beloved family behind in Dakota Territory, but at least Ma and Pa come with her to make sure she gets settled.


The school is a large place with many helpful friends and teachers. It takes time for Mary to adjust to her new life, but she learns quickly. What she doesn't understand is why Mattie, the girl who resides in the room next to hers, hates her so much. Determined not to let Mattie's sour attitude affect her, Mary continues her studies. But one day Mattie pushes her too far, and Mary discovers Laura might not be the only feisty Ingalls sister.

Elizabeth Kimmel Willard weaves a fascinating story of the first few months Mary Ingalls spends at the Iowa College for the Blind in Mary Ingalls on Her Own. Similar in style to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this book places the focus on Laura's beloved sister, Mary, as she seeks a way to become more independent. This is also a story that shows Mary confronting her feelings about being blind and the loss of the plans she had made before losing her eyesight.

Willard blends historical figures, fictional characters and the everyday life at the college during the time Mary attended and comes up with a superb story that imagines what Mary's experiences might have been. Part of me wishes the author had chosen to tell the story from a solid first person point of view--since this is such a personal story--but she followed Wilder's lead and told it in third person. That caught me off guard at first because in the opening paragraph it talks about Mary's eyes being a mix of anxiety and excitement, and I kept wondering how Mary would know that. That said, I was captivated from the time I opened the book until I read the last word.

I truly enjoyed Mary Ingalls on Her Own and am thrilled to have it as part of my Little House collection.


Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (December 26, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060009055
ISBN-13: 978-0060009052

I purchased this book in 2011 to add to my personal collection. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

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