Beyond Little Women: A Story About Louisa May Alcott
Susan Bivin Aller
Illustrations by Qi Z. Wang
Ages 8 to 10
Lerner Publishing Group, 2004, 1-57505-636-4
Louisa May Alcott would perhaps be surprised at how many lives she has touched through her books. “Little Women” is now considered a classic and is read by young people all over the world. Its simple and lovingly told stories about the four March sisters have stood the test of time and have not lost their power and vigor. It is interesting to learn that many of the experiences and events described in “Little Women,” “Good Wives,” “Little Men,” and “Jo’s Boys” come from Louisa May Alcott’s own life.
Louisa was very much like Jo March, willful and constantly struggling with her temper and her “passions.” Her parents were constantly trying to control this aspect of her character and she found that writing gave her a much needed outlet for her thoughts and all those pent-up feelings that she was not supposed to have.
In fact Louisa had a much harder life than her much loved character, Jo March, for Louisa’s family rarely stayed in a place long, formed a real home, or had enough money. Financial worries were in fact a constant source of concern, for Louisa’s father was a very impractical man and was quite unable to provide for his family adequately.
Louisa was still quite young when she took on the role of helping to provide for her family and when she also took on the responsibility of making sure that the family was taken care of. By writing articles and poems, and later her books, she became the one who took care of her parents, her sisters, and their families.
The author of this biography goes to great pains to show us how brave, hard working, and dutiful Louisa May Alcott was, never failing to care for her family even at the cost of her own independence and happiness. She also makes it quite clear that Louisa’s father and mother did not always have the good sense one would expect people with their education to have. They also did not seem to see what their behavior was doing to the lives of their children who needed stability, security, and uncritical love in their lives. In many ways this is a sad story and we cannot help wishing that Louisa had had a happier life. At the same time we can be grateful that she chose to share parts of that life with us through her wonderful books.
This is one of the excellent books in the “Creative Minds Biography” series.
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