Monday, October 31, 2016

It's October-Time to Jump Into a Kids Classic

I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics Challenge.
Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this brilliant idea to encourage all ages to read children's classics. So far I've enjoyed
March "Little Prince"
April "Wind in the Willows"
May:James and the Giant Peach" 

June "Adventures of Tom Sawyer"

took a summer break and in 
September enjoyed rereading "Anne of Green Gables"

This month I jumped on board with "Little Women"a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832–March 6, 1888), which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. 
My inspiration for this book choice was finding the book at a used book sale for only $3.00 copyright 1947.
For me it was a literary bargain. 
Of course the book has had numerous book covers since its first publication. Here is one example. 
The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood, and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters. It falls into the genre of coming of age.

"Little Women" was an immediate commercial and critical success, and readers wanted to know more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume, entitled Good Wives. It was also successful. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single work entitled Little Women. Alcott also wrote two sequels to her popular work, both of which also featured the March sisters: Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886). Although "Little Women" was a novel for girls, it differed notably from the current writings for children, especially girls. The novel addressed three major themes: domesticity, work, and true love, all of them interdependent and each necessary to the achievement of its heroine's individual identity.

For her books, Alcott was often inspired by familiar elements. The characters in Little Women are recognizably drawn from family members and friends.
However, Alcott's portrayal, even if inspired by her family, is an idealized one. For instance, Mr. March is portrayed as a hero of the American Civil War, a gainfully employed chaplain and, presumably, a source of inspiration to the women of the family. He is absent for most of the novel.

In contrast, Bronson Alcott was very present in his family's household, due in part to his inability to find steady work. While he espoused many of the educational principles touted by the March family, he was loud and dictatorial. His lack of financial independence was a source of humiliation to his wife and daughters. As was common at the time, Louisa had little formal education. She was taught mainly by her father using his unconventional ideas about education. She read from the library of neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson and learned botany from Henry David Thoreau.
Louisa early on realized that her father's flighty educational and philosophical ventures could not adequately support the family so she sought ways to provide financial stability. She wrote short stories for magazines and published a collection of fables she'd originally written as tutor for Ellen Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson's daughter.

The March family is portrayed living in genteel penury, but the Alcott family, dependent on an improvident, impractical father, suffered real poverty and occasional hunger. In addition to her own childhood and that of her sisters, scholars who have come across the diaries of Louisa Alcott's mother, have surmised that Little Women was also heavily inspired by Abigail Alcott's own early life.

Of course, as a ten year old, I was enraptured by the everyday life of the March family. I just assumed Alcott was writing her own life story. Even today after rereading the book I am still mesmerized by Jo's adventurous spirit, how resilient the family members were facing poverty, their devotion to one another and the imaginative ways they were able to entertain themselves with very little.

This image is the Orchard House where Louisa Alcott penned her novel. "Little Women", located in Concord, MA.
Amos Bronson Alcott originally purchased two houses set upon twelve acres of land on the Lexington Road in 1857. The grounds contained an orchard of forty apple trees, which greatly appealed to Mr. Alcott, who considered apples the most perfect food. It is not surprising, then, that he should name his home "Orchard House."

After moving twenty-two times in nearly thirty years, the Alcotts finally found their most permanent home at Orchard House, where they lived from 1858 to 1877. The house is most noted for being where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her beloved classic, "Little Women', in 1868 at a "shelf desk" her father built especially for her.

Two years ago I was on a New England bus tour. Unfortunately we only did a drive by of the house. Needles to say I was quite disappointed. It would have been like being on hallowed ground visiting the property and touring the inside of the house. An extra bonus is Nathaniel Hawthorne's house, Wayfair is located next door to Orchard House and also open to the public. 

The Internet is a good source for finding literary pilgrimages. Start with this site for inspiration on a driving trip through the New England area to explore the homes  of literary giants.


  1. Wonderful pick Susan! Thanks for sticking with on for #ReadKidsClassics!

    1. I have really enjoyed the challenge as I see much value in reading children s classics and encouraging others to do so.

  2. Thanks for sharing Susan. Great book choice!

    1. Great to relive parts of my childhood enjoying this novel and the lives of the March family.

    2. Great to relive parts of my childhood enjoying this novel and the lives of the March family.

  3. An excellent follow-up book is the fictional story of Mr. March, father of the Little Women. The book titled 'March' is written by Geraldine Brooks (2005).

    1. yes that is a great read thanks for suggestion

  4. Little Women is one of the few books I owned as a child, gifted to me by an aunt. I need to find it and reread it. What a bargain, $3 for a 1947 volume.

  5. I love the new look of your site, Sue! GORGEOUS! Thanks for including Jump Into a Book too!

  6. THANK YOU for continuing to be a part of, and supporting, Read Kids Classics. We appreciate you!