Friday, December 2, 2011

Little Women and Me Book Review

 Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Childrens. ISBN: 9781599905143.
Annotation:  After a school assignment prompts her to pick one thing she would change in a classic novel, fourteen-year-old Emily March finds herself transported into the world of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. While the story continues around her, Emily assumes her new role as middle March sister, and hopes that she can influence the outcomes of certain events in the book, particularly those concerning the March’s “hot neighbor,” Laurie.    
Personal thoughts:  The 1994 film version of Little Women is one of my all-time favorite movies and is what prompted me to read Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel when I was younger. As an essential lifelong fan of the story, I was intrigued to read this adaptation. The result was far beyond my expectations! I’m not sure if I have ever laughed as much while reading a novel. The clever things that Emily says about the March sisters (basically a vehicle for the author to comment on the original story herself) are, in a word, hilarious. I also really liked the more heartwarming aspects of Emily’s life in Little Women, and was especially pleased with the outcome of the story. I would highly recommend this novel to any fans of the original, or as a means of generating interest in reading the classic.
Plot summary: Fourteen-year-old Emily March is fed up with being the middle sister. The love of her life, Jackson, only has eyes for Emily’s older sister, Charlotte, and, to make matters worse, her weird English teacher assigned an essay over the weekend.  The assignment is to take a novel and select one thing to change in the plot. Emily immediately reaches for Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, one of her favorite books, and mulls over whether to write about preventing Beth from passing away or ensuring that Laurie ends up with Jo instead of Amy. As she’s thinking, Emily is suddenly transported back in time and finds herself living in the world of Little Women. Emily doesn’t know how or why she has arrived not only in 1860s New England but as a member of the March family. As the events of the original story continue around her, Emily learns to adapt to her new life with older sisters Meg and Jo and younger sisters Beth and Amy. Being a 21st century teen in 1860s Massachusetts, however, has its downsides. Not only is Emily plagued with Victorian sensibilities, a war, and, hairy legs, she is also engaged in a battle of wills with Jo over the attentions of Laurie, the March’s teenage next-door neighbor. Will Emily be able to accomplish both of the changes she had in mind for Little Women?
Review:  Amongst the recent bevy of modern adaptations of classic novels, Little Women and Me stands out as a must-read for anyone with even the slightest hint of liking for the original story. The novel immediately takes the reader into Louisa May Alcott’s creation. Those who have read Little Women will recognize characters, events and even quotes from the classic. The addition of Emily, a clever and sarcastic 21st-century fourteen-year-old, makes for a delightful and laugh-out-loud take on the original novel. Emily pokes fun at some of the oddities in the story: Beth’s affinity for kittens, limbless dolls and all things pathetic, Jo’s irritatingly evident penchant for independence, and Amy’s obsession with her nose. Fans of Little Women will find many moments of hilarity in Baratz-Logsted’s creative adaptation. The story also takes several twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing, particularly as to the exact nature of Emily’s presence in the March house. Overall, Little Women and Me is a funny, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable update of a classic novel. Those who have not read Louisa May Alcott’s version will need to brush up on the basics, but Little Women and Me can also be enjoyed by people who are not as familiar with the original.
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters.  
Themes:  Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, sisters, time travel.   
Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from Kirkus.
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions:
- What would you like to change about the original Little Women story?
- Which of the March sisters (not including Emily) is your favorite? Why?
- Did you enjoy this adaptation of a classic novel? Why or why not?
- What lesson did Emily need to learn from being stuck in Little Women? Do you think she learned it?

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