The Woman Behind the Book

When I was nine, my mother handed me a book and said, “This was mine when I was young. I think you’ll like it.” The book was old and tattered. I looked at the title – Little Women. The book had 630 pages and the print was tiny. I knew it would take me forever to read.  

I had seen the movie on TV. I longed to be Jo March. She was adventuresome and a writer. I felt as if we were kindred spirits! I opened the book my mother had handed to me and began to read. It did take me a long time to finish because I savored the words Louisa May Alcott used to describe the March family’s adventures. I laughed and I cried throughout the book. By the end, I desperately wanted to be a member of the March family. I was ecstatic to learn Louisa May Alcott had written other books. As an author, she knew how to touch the hearts of her readers. Instead of being Jo March, I wanted to be Louisa May Alcott.

I’ve seen all of the movie versions of Little Women, but Louisa’s written words are by far the best. While living in Massachusetts, I took my mother to see Orchard House, home of the Alcott family. As soon as we entered the house, we stepped back in time. Little Women came alive for both of us. I longed to touch Louisa’s desk, hoping that magical spark she had for writing would somehow transfer into my writing.

Everyone should read Little Women or have it read to them. It’s a classic story with themes of family, friendship, humor, heartaches, and love. To get to know the woman behind Little Women, here are two biographies I’d like to recommend. One is for younger readers. The other is for older readers.

Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott written by Yona Zeldis McDonough and illustrated by Bethanne Andersen is a wonderful picture book biography for younger readers. It tells of Louisa’s life in a simple, straightforward manner with colorful illustrations. The end of the book includes personal quotes, poems, thoughts, a favorite recipe, and a timeline of important dates in Louisa’s life.

Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs is a Newbery Medal winner. It provides a detailed version of Louisa’s life with photographs and a history of the times. This book was first published in 1933. For some readers the pace of this book may be rather slow, but if you are interested in knowing all about Louisa, this is the book for you.

“Hearts don’t grow old.” — Louisa May Alcott

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5 Comments on “The Woman Behind the Book”

  1. susanwbailey Says:

    How old is your mother’s copy of Little Women? It looks like it could be from the 1920s or sooner, it’s cool. Does it have color plate illustrations?

    I loved Little Women and have read a lot of bios on Louisa but have never read the ones you recommended. I did buy an old version of Invincible Louisa from an antique shop and look forward to reading it.

    I blog about Louisa if you’d like to read more about her (and I did a lot of my early posts on Little Women) – you can find it here http://louisamayalcottismypassion.wordpress.com.

    • cathyso3 Says:

      You’re very perceptive. The copyright date of the book is 1929. It was given to my mother for Christmas of that year. As for the illustrations, they are pen and ink. The only color plate illustration is the one I colored. (Oops!) Your blog is great. Thanks for sharing!

      • susanwbailey Says:

        Ooo I nailed it, that’s what I thought! 🙂 The print suggested older than that but the illustration looked like 1920s or 30s. I have a beautiful 1926 edition of An Old Fashioned Girl that has beautiful color plate illustrations. I also have a children’s primer from the same era and the pictures are really cool. Too bad books aren’t made like that anymore.

        Thank you regarding my blog! 🙂

      • cathyso3 Says:

        Your book collection sounds fabulous. There’s nothing like a good “old fashioned” book!

      • susanwbailey Says:

        E-books are super convenient but a beautifully put-together hard cover book is sweet!


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