Posted tagged ‘Louisa May Alcott’

Picture Book Month – Biographies

November 21, 2013

Picture book biographies shine. They offer readers an easy way to learn about well-known people as compared to reading a longer biography that may be too daunting for them.

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Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball written by John Coy and illustrated by Joe Morse is a picture book biography that shines. In 1891 in Springfield, MA, James Naismith took over a gym class that no one else wanted to teach. In desperation, he created a game that required skill and rules that had to be followed if the players wanted to remain playing. His game piqued the interest of the boys, and basketball became a hit. Coy provides concise information about how James Naismith invented the game of basketball and how it became a national pastime. The graphic illustrations by Joe Morse offer readers a glimpse into the time period when basketball was invented. Make sure to look at the endpapers to see Naismith’s first draft of basketball rules.

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Another picture book biography worth reading is Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Carlyn Beccia. Krull offers a slice of Louisa May Alcott’s life that played an important role in the way she ultimately looked at her own life. In 1862, Louisa traveled to Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded and sick soldiers of the Civil War. Conditions in the makeshift hospital were horrible, and tending to the seriously wounded soldiers made Louisa come face-to-face with the reality of war. In her short time there, she saw the disparity between how white workers and black workers were treated. Three weeks into Louisa’s time in Washington, she became very ill and was eventually brought home by her father. Alcott’s experience in Washington was live-changing. Her heartfelt writing about what she saw in the hospital made editors sit up and pay attention. Her writing was suddenly in demand. Soon afterward, she was asked to write a book about girls. Little Women, set during the Civil War, was the result, and it became a best seller. Carlyn Beccia’s colorful illustrations and Kathleen Krull’s story give readers a new look into the life and writings of Louisa May Alcott. Back matter and endpapers in the book provide more information about the time period. A list of  websites related to Louisa May Alcott and a timeline of her books can also be found.

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The Woman Behind the Book

November 8, 2011

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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