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.
"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.
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.
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 http://www.travelswithtwo.com/2011/04/25/new-england-a-literary-pilgrimage/ for inspiration on a driving trip through the New England area to explore the homes of literary giants.