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'Little House' still popular

MANSFIELD, Mo. - A narrow wooden desk in a corner of an Ozarks farmhouse has been known to move visitors to tears.

MANSFIELD, Mo. - A narrow wooden desk in a corner of an Ozarks farmhouse has been known to move visitors to tears.

Some readers have such fond memories of the "Little House" novels about Laura Ingalls Wilder's frontier childhood that they cry when they walk into her Missouri home and see the desk where she wrote many of the books.

April marks the 75th anniversary of the first publication in 1932 of "Little House in the Big Woods." The story of Laura's early life in a cabin in 1860s Wisconsin launched a nine-book series that made Wilder a household name, helped by the hit award-winning TV series "Little House on the Prairie" that ran on NBC from 1974-1983.

Embraced from the start by America's teachers, the books have been read by or to generations of elementary school kids, which has helped to keep the books in continuous print. The series has sold more than 41 million copies in the United States and been translated into more than 40 languages.

The white clapboard farmhouse where Laura and her husband Almonzo spent most of their adult lives stands on a hillside among rolling pastures and woods in the Ozarks of southern Missouri. The couple moved here to raise apples and horses after losing their first farm in South Dakota and briefly living in Florida.

Wilder was already famous in her lifetime and the home was quickly preserved as a museum after her death in 1957 at age 90.

"We've had people who've actually come to tears over it," tour guide Rebecca Dierksen said about the writing desk at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, which gets about 40,000 visitors a year.

The 40-acre farm the Wilders bought in 1894 for $400 now includes a museum with artifacts from Laura's collection.

Laura Ingalls Wilder spent more than 30 years painstakingly developing the rocky farm with her husband before sitting down to write about her childhood on the vanished frontier. She was in her early 60s when she attempted her first draft in 1930. That roughly 200-page manuscript was submitted to publishers and magazines by Laura's only surviving child, Rose Wilder Lane, a successful writer, journalist and novelist.

The manuscript was turned down but prompted a publisher's suggestion that Laura rework her stories as a fictional account for children. The result was a series that has remained on reading lists for generations of children, teachers and parents. *