Thursday, August 8, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Legacy Documentaries - Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura DVD

The kids have been lucky lately - and it's summer time to boot - because we managed to get back-to-back video reviews! As it happened when the Review Staff put out the word about the Almanzo Wilder, Life Before Laura video by Legacy Documentaries, I had just finished reading the book Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and had already decided it would be an excellent read-aloud, so the video dovetailed nicely.

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The book is Laura's retelling of her husband's childhood experiences on the family farm, and the video gives more detail on the man himself. In the book, Almanzo is 8 years old, and a farmer at heart. I loved that the video provided readings from the book, was hosted by Dean Butler, the actor who played Almanzo's character on the Little House on the Prairie TV show (how I loved that show growing up!), and gave interviews by historians who specialize in Mrs. Wilder's work. As an aside, Mr. Butler is also involved with Legacy Documentaries in other ways according to their website.
The video was well done, and all of my children (from 2-year-old Mr. Magoo, to 13-year-old Maestro, and even my husband, the White Knight!) remained interested throughout the show. The editors and staff of Legacy Documentaries did a good job mixing in sketches from the book, interviews, readings, etc. and was well-paced. In our house, we're following the video by reading a chapter a day of the book, even though my two oldest read it several years ago.

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One of my favorite things to learn was the comment made by one of the historians. She mentioned how much food that the book said Almanzo had eaten at each meal - and truly, for an 8-year-old it was a ridiculous amount! But the historian pointed out that Laura's family had moved several times in an effort to find good land to settle on and did not have an easy time of it, and frequently did not have enough food to eat and be satisfied. So, to Laura, the food a farm boy might be allowed would seem like a dream come true, and so she threw it all in there at every meal! 
The one semi-downside I would say about it is that the music and narration are sometimes a bit like the videos that are played endlessly throughout the day for visitors at a living history-type museum (or any museum, for that matter.) Really, all that is to say: don't expect this to be of the same genre of documentary that would be put out by the History Channel. The video is $21.95 on the website; they also have created a video about Laura, called The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder.


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