Zochert's Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder was published in the days of auld lang syne by my generation's standards--1976--but it was one of the earliest biographies about Laura and thus remains a starting source for any hardcore Little House fan. Although I mostly enjoyed Zochert's biography, it had some vexing weaknesses: most notably, its emphasis on description rather than facts and its romanticization of Laura's youth.Early on, Zochert says he hopes to write this biography like Laura wrote about her life. As a result, the book reads like a rushed and substandard amalgam of Laura's actual Little House series. Most readers of this book will already know Laura's story; they want to know what she left unwritten. Although Zochert provides information about Laura's various neighbors, I felt his emphasis on these characters removed the focus from Laura herself. I finished the book without learning much new about Laura (but maybe this is less of a fault on Zochert's part and more so a testament to Laura's storytelling ability--I felt that I knew her well enough after completing the series). While I would have appreciated Zochert to adopt a "just the facts ma'am" strategy, I feel that he provided small but sharp insights into Laura's character and captured the ideals Laura found most important. In particular, his exploration of Laura and Almanzo's courtship was well-done. I discovered many new facts here; for example, did you know Laura called Almanzo 'Manly' after mishearing 'Mannie,' his brother Royal's nickname for him? Or the story about how the couple turned off the clock before 11pm to sneak an extra hour together and then restarted it when Almanzo left at midnight? Most interestingly, did you know that Laura made Reverend Brown promise not to make Laura vow to obey her husband? A year ago it made a huge stir when Kate Middleton was the first British princess not to say that vow, so this detail demonstrates how much of a feminist Laura was and simply deepens my love for her and her stories. Zochert also has a knack for pulling the most Laura-y quotes from her unpublished memoir. About Almanzo's proposal Laura wrote: "he kissed me goodnight and I went into the house not quite sure if I were engaged to Manly or to the starlight and the prairie."The true strength of Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder is Zochert's keen understanding of what the stories reported in the Little House books meant to Laura. Appreciating the small joys of everyday, realizing how times are always changing, understanding the beauty of memory and childhood--these are the everlasting messages of Laura's Little House series which she applied to every single day of her life. In this biography, Zochert does not take a factual approach to discovering who Laura, our pioneer girl, truly was; instead, he presents the essence of Laura.