25 Jul A LAURA INGALLS WILDER SURPRISE
Bob Falls, who founded the wondrous company, POETRY ALIVE, in 1984, and forever-friend, wrote me about a quote he found about Laura Ingalls Wilder who has been in the literary news of late.
I was referenced in Caroline Fraser’s Pulitzer Prize winning, PRAIRIE FIRES: THE AMERICAN DREAMS OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER, as well as in William T. Anderson’s THE LITERARY APPRENTICESHIP OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER (“South Dakota History, v 13, #4).
In 1969, I wrote BOOKS ARE BY PEOPLE: INTERVIEWS WITH 104 AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATORS OF BOOKS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN (Scholastic/Citation Press). Among the luminaries were Berta and Elmer Hader who I kept in touch with until their deaths.
Until Bob Falls uncovered this I completely forgot about it: from BOOKS ARE BY PEOPLE:
The Haders met in San Francisco. “I was living there and met Elmer through a painter friend, ‘Mrs. Hader said. “I had a cottage for $5 a month on Telegraph Hill. Elmer did a painting of Telegraph Hill, which now hangs over the fireplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house in Mansfield, Missouri.”
I was curious to know how Mr. Hader’s painting ended up in the house of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Mrs. Hader told me, “Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter, and I shared a four-story house in Greenwich Village at one time. I was always friendly with the family. One day, years after Elmer and I had been married, Laura sent me a manuscript to look at, a story called LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS. She used to write accounts for little farm journals, you know. I read it and liked it because of the story’s simplicity and homespun quality. I showed it to my agent and to several publishers, but everyone said the same thing — ‘No hope in such a story.’ One day an editor friend from Alfred A. Knopf visited with me . She told me that the company was looking for some exciting materials about early days in America written by people who had lived it. I told her I knew of something she might be interested in and gave her Laura’s address. They corresponded, but nothing happened.
“Finally Virginia Kirkus, then editor at Harper, took the book. It immediately became a success when it was published in 1932. I really have a sneaky feeling down deep inside me that it it weren’t for me the book might not have been. Would you like to see a first edition of it?” she asked. Mrs. Hader went to get the copy. Written on the flyleaf were the words: “In appreciation of your kindness in introducing my little book to an editor…Yours sincerely, Laura Ingalls Wilder.”
The Haders won the Caldecott Award for THE BIG SNOW (Macmillan, 1948). They continued to produce books through their eighties.
And — they served the best damn fruitcake with sherry I ever tasted!