May 16, 2012

#TheList, No. 745: Little Women

When I was in the fifth grade, we had an assignment called "Fiction Feedback."  Every term, we were required to read at least three fictional books and fill out a small worksheet.  For some of the...uhhh dorks, to put it gently, this assignment was treated as a competition.

We could choose the books ourselves and our teacher had a fairly sizeable collection in the classroom for us to pick from if we wanted.  I distinctly remember two books in this collection: R.L. Stine's Goodnight Kiss:

and Louisa May Alcott's Little WomenLittle Women was by far the largest book on the shelf; you had to get special permission to read it for Fiction Feedback and it counted as two books.  Naturally, all the dorks had to read this book so we could brag about this feat.

Now that I've reread the book without that competitive edge driving me forward, I appreciate it differently.  I actually see it as a great "classic book" for kids to read and enjoy from the way the novel is constructed.  The story definitely flows across the chapters, but every chapter can be read on its own as a mini short story.  Yes, I see that mini short story sounds redundant, but I'm sticking with it.  Anyway, the digestable chunks of story are the perfect size for children readers.  The chapters each have a solid storyline.  Read one or two chapters a day, and pick up the book again tomorrow.  There aren't any of the crazy cliffhangers to compel you to finish the book right then and there, except maybe the storyline about Beth's illness, and the chapter sizes and completeness help to understand the story better.

It's also a really good, simple story.  Four sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) grow up in the late 19th century, and here's what happens to them.  Yes, it's schmaltzy here and there, but I didn't mind it as much as I normally do.  Plus, this line exists:
"...better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands."
I personally love that.  It's a dose of anti-Disneyfication of the Princess stories focusing on finding Prince Charming (not that I hate those movies, it's just hard to argue that that's not the case in many movies).

There are lots of books available to read after Little WomenLittle Women is actually the first of a series by Lousia May Alcott, so there are four more books you can read once you finish.  There's a "Portraits of Little Women" series written in the 90s that focus on the characters individually.  There's also a movie and a musical out there for your viewing and listening pleasure.  Seriously, Little Women is everywhere. 

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