by Susan Sey
I recently tried to read Little Women to my 6 year old. She's a precocious reader, & while completely capable of reading the book herself, I didn't want to hand over the hard-backed copy my mom gave me when I was a girl. As my daughter routinely loves the covers right off books, I didn't want her grubby little paws on my beloved copy just yet. I decided to read it to her myself.
As it turns out, Little Women--while a wonderful story--is really....dense. The story telling is old-fashioned & detailed. The author doesn't just mention that the girls write a weekly newspaper for their secret society, she gives you the newspaper in its entirety. By the time the story picks up again--three pages later--my six year old is like, "Wait, what's going on again? Who are these people now?"
So I decided to table it for a few more years. I started reading her All Of A Kind Family instead. But I couldn't put down Little Women. I finished it myself, then I went for Little Men. Then I ate up Jo's Boys. Then I devoured Eight Cousins & Rose in Bloom in quick succession, & just finished up with An Old-Fashioned Girl.
I binged on Louisa May Alcott.
And you know what? I feel GREAT. I'd forgotten how beautifully uplifting those stories are. I love the way the people in her books are poor but find happiness. They have flaws but work so hard to overcome them. Their goodness and talent aren't always rewarded with money or fame, but they're always rewarded. And that satisfies me on such a fundamental level. Happy endings always do. (I'll bet there are a LOT of romance writers/readers who cut their teeth on Louisa May Alcott.)
I find so much of children's literature--at least the more modern stuff--so heavily laced with sarcasm, irony, clueless adults & poor grammar/bad language. I love reading with my kids but I'm so tired of books that disparage childhood. Little Women reminded me that it's possible to find really great books for actual children, not the adults who buy their books. Books where patience, self-sacrifice & charity are worth more than fashion, money & popularity. Books that celebrate childhood's inocence instead of trying to hurry them out of it. Where girls are taught to love goodness rather than clothes or looks, both in themselves as well as in others.
Have you revisited any children's or YA books that really touched you lately? I have a voracious reader at home & I need a summer reading list, so don't be shy!