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The Three Faces of Nellie

post written by Emma Filbrun

Title: The Three Faces of Nellie
Author: Robynne Elizabeth Miller
Major Themes: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneer Life
Synopsis: Laura Ingalls Wilder based her character Nellie Oleson on three different people—who were they, really?

I have loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books since I was about six years old. My dad read the series to us a couple of times while I was growing up, and I believe I was only six or seven when I began reading them myself. Now, I’m reading them to my own family for about the third time. Any time I see a book about the “story behind the story” of Laura, I’m interested. When the opportunity came up to review The Three Faces of Nellie, I jumped at it.

The author has studied all of Laura’s references to who she based the character of Nellie Oleson on. According to her, she combined three different people into one to create one person with whom she could have conflict in her story. Robynne has done extensive research into each of these people, studying census records, newspaper reports, town directories, and obituaries, among other resources, to build up a picture of who these three women really were. I found some of their stories quite interesting; other parts, such as the accounts of the women’s parents and grandparents, were a bit boring, especially as information was repeated twice in at least a couple of instances.

If you like to read about the inspiration for an author’s stories or characters, you will enjoy this book. I plan to read parts of it to my children after we finish the Little House series. Not all of this book is suitable for children, although most is, and some parts are just not interesting enough to read to them. They will be quite interested in some parts, though!

I received a free ecopy of this book and chose to write a review.

WARNING: A couple of times an illegitimate birth is referred to; several divorces are mentioned, and one or two suicides, all in a matter-of-fact reporting of the facts of history.

Age Levels:

Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults


Links to buy The Three Faces of Nellie:

Amazon: Paperback | Kindle

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Paperback


Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneer Life

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