Reads Revisited: Little Women

For my ninth birthday, my beloved grandparents gave me a beautiful hardcover illustrated copy of Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Women (Library Catalog / OverDrive). I was ecstatic as I was an avid reader and my grandmother told me specifically about how much she loved the book as a young girl. I will never forget that I ran through those 643 pages in only three days. My memories of it are nothing but fond.

As I sat down to reread it for this column, I had a very different experience. First, I happened to be at work, so I grabbed a paperback copy off the shelf and found it difficult to read. The font was small and dense, with outdated language. Had I really read this when I was nine? Now, the book hadn’t changed since I was a child, so what was the difference? Honestly, it was a combination of things–the positive memories I had associated with the gift and the edition I was reading. I never really gave much thought to the importance of beauty, spacing, and illustrations in a novel, but my visceral reaction to the two different editions was striking. I actually came home that very day and pulled out my copy of the book and finished it using my gift copy. It truly made a difference.

I have always leaned more towards realistic fiction, mostly coming-of-age novels. While I’ve expanded my genres of reading over the years, this is definitely still my comfort zone. Little Women is certainly this. It follows the four March sisters from their early teens into their adulthood during the Civil War. While I certainly understand more about the time period of the novel as an adult, I definitely missed a lot of context as a child. As Alcott wrote this novel in 1868, the language used reflects that. While beautiful, as I reread, I realized exactly how much I likely missed when reading this as a nine-year-old. I definitely did not understand the emphasis on religion, but I thoroughly enjoyed how it was used to help the characters be their best selves. I always had a penchant for helping people less fortunate than myself, and really related to the girls giving up their Christmas breakfast to help a poorer family.

Each of the sisters had their major flaw, although it was made to be a positive trait by the support of their loving family. Meg, the oldest, was pretty, though jealous of others who had more than she. Beth was sweet, though painfully shy. Amy was a talented artist, though vain. Finally, Jo was a talented writer, with a quick temper. I strongly related to Jo. First, I was and still am a tomboy who chafes against traditional female roles. I love how Jo did and said what she wanted. I also related to her efforts to do the right thing, which somehow constantly ended up in a variety of scrapes. But I think my favorite thing about her is how she would read what she wanted when her boss was napping. I used to read at night. I pretended to be afraid of the dark, so I could leave a light on in my room and read after bedtime. Oddly enough, that’s mostly how I read this particular book. It struck me as something Jo would have done.

Overall, I will always love this book because of its personal significance. Re-reading it as an adult, I’m not sure how children today would relate to the book. Perhaps some of the new books being published today will become beloved classics like this one.

Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.


  1. Christina Loud

    Have you read “Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy: A Graphic Novel” by Ray Terciero and Bre Indigo? It’s a modern adaptation, and I loved it.

    • Lauren, Children's Librarian

      I have! Grabbed it the moment it came out! Also check out the most recent movie adaptation. It was interesting as well.

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