Senior Leah Hickman worked for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society last summer. | Courtesy

When senior Leah Hickman was a little girl, she loved to look through her “Little House on the Prairie” picture books. As Hickman matured, her love for the the “Little House” books and their author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, grew from a childhood favorite to a nos­talgic admi­ration — not only did Hickman take a class on Wilder with Vis­iting Pro­fessor Dedra Birzer, but she also spent last summer interning for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in DeMitt, South Dakota.

“Today, I love these books because they remind me of my own childhood,” Hickman said. “In a way, I grew up with Laura, and I hope to hang on to her pioneer deter­mi­nation and appre­ci­ation of the simple and beau­tiful things in life.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m., “Little House” enthu­siasts will cel­e­brate both Wilder’s 150th birthday and the 85th anniversary of the pub­li­cation of “Little House in the Big Woods” at a dis­cussion and reception held by Public Service Librarian Brenna Wade in the Her­itage Room of Mossey Library.

“Wilder’s work is a series of cher­ished children’s books, and most people have strong mem­ories of reading them,” Wade said. “Everyone can par­tic­ipate in our dis­cussion and we can learn from what other people have to offer.”

Cel­e­bration attendees can expect to discuss Wilder’s books from both his­torical and lit­erary per­spec­tives. During this dis­cussion, as with each of her semes­terly reading events, Wade encourages stu­dents to revisit classic, beloved books for the sole purpose of reading for pleasure.

Both Hickman and Wade said Wilder and her works deserve remem­bering for the beauty and sim­plicity they emanate.

“What’s most inter­esting about her books is how they are simple and quiet. They are good stories even though there is not nec­es­sarily a lot of plot, not a lot of action. Instead it was about the day to day life of the Ingalls family,” Wade said. “They are com­forting stories of love and a family doing what it takes to survive, shown from a kid’s per­spective — not harsh, but rosier.”

In her eight-book auto­bi­o­graphical series “Little House on the Prairie,” Wilder recounts the trials and tri­umphs of her family’s westward journey throughout the mid- to late- 19th century. Her mem­ories flow in a simple but pow­erful nar­rative. Sophomore Emily Heubaum, who plans to attend Tuesday’s event, said she enjoyed the series “because she wrote from the per­spective of a child for children.”

With a voice as gentle, innocent, and playful as a child recounting her day, Wilder tells story after story, and her readers encounter the themes of their own childhood in an older setting and far-off place. With Wilder, they rec­ognize the deli­cious softness of grandmother’s house, the fresh joy of playtime, the first sting of jealousy among friends, the bliss and exas­per­ation of sis­terhood.

In “Little House in the Big Woods,” the first installment of the series, Wilder describes the last moments of the her family’s stable life in Wis­consin, including a joyous Christmas cel­e­bration com­plete with feasting, dancing, and homemade molasses candy. Two books later, in “Little House on the Prairie,” the family packs their few pos­ses­sions in a covered wagon and begins their journey west.

“Laura’s life has always cap­tured my imag­i­nation because of its sim­plicity. Even though it was simple, however, Laura had no trouble pointing out the little adven­tures that came in the everyday, mundane matters of life,” Hickman said. “Through her writing, these adven­tures con­tin­ually come alive for me as a reader. I get to see the unsettled lands of the American West through her eyes, and I get to expe­rience pioneer struggles and tri­umphs alongside her.”

Throughout her books, Wilder tells of pas­times long for­gotten, like sewing doll clothes out of fabric scraps, crafting crowns of wild­flowers picked from the prairie, and singing along as her father plays the fiddle by the fire. The series also depicts unimag­inable chal­lenges, including crossing raging rivers, suf­fering the destruction of crops by swarms of locusts, rationing food at the instruction of a friendly Native American elder in prepa­ration for a incredibly long winter, and strug­gling to survive various deadly ill­nesses without the assis­tance of modern-day med­icine.

From building a tem­porary home­stead in the side of a hill in Min­nesota (“On the Banks of Plum Creek”) to learning how to swim and fish on Silver Lake (“On the Shores of Silver Lake”), the series prompts young readers to imagine life before cars, corner stores, or com­puters. Wade said she believes the books to capture the essence of every child who dreams the pioneer life — Wilder’s anec­dotes indulge children whose imag­i­na­tions wander to the days of one-room school houses, lunch pails, penny candies, and horse-drawn car­riages.

Though Wilder is most famous for “Little House on the Prairie,” she also wrote several other books com­mem­o­rating her adult life, most of which were pub­lished posthu­mously. All of her books, however, speak to her superb char­acter.

“My favorite things about Wilder are her extremely deter­mined per­son­ality and her sense of humor,” Hickman said. “Even though Laura only grew to be 4 feet and 11 inches, not much scared that feisty gal, and she never gave up easily — espe­cially when it came to helping her family. She also knew the impor­tance of laughter. Her humorous per­spective of life helps me remember that nothing — not even a tough life on the prairie — is too serious to lighten up by a joke or some dancing every now and then.”