by Louisa May Alcott, published (est) 1865
“There is one [ghost] which I am very anxious to keep you from fearing. Women are especially haunted by it, and it prevents them from doing, being, and thinking all that they might and ought. “What will people say?” is the name of this formidable ghost; and it does much harm, for few of us have the courage to live up to what we know to be right in all things.”
Oh Louisa! Your spirit is with us today in every children’s book that you wrote, well over one hundred years ago. What young person does not need to be reminded about being true to themselves? Or being brave, or being compassionate, or being fearless? The wonder to me of an author like Alcott is that she never misses the chance in any of her children’s books, to let something profound enter. This collection of short stories for children is no exception.
I had no idea that short stories by Louisa May Alcott were still available today, and happened across this collection, just one of many, in my local public library. I intend to read all of them now. There is so much to be said for each story that Alcott offers us. They are a fabulous glimpse into American history. Her writing is superb, as the stories just spin out of themselves, as if by a fairy weaver. And finally, her transcendentalist, feminist roots show strong and sure. Who else would dare write in the 1800’s that young ladies need exercise and muscles and stamina, rather than just sitting and doing needle work? The influence of her odd but progressive educator father, Bronson Alcott, comes through in every page of her writing, as she exhorts children to become their best.
This children’s book has an uncanny resemblance to some of the writing by Frances Hodgson Burnett (A Little Princess, for example). (Which means that their ‘sugary sweet’ content is quite high, so be forewarned!) I was delighted to discover that Alcott and Burnett spent time together. Some of these stories can easily be read aloud to younger children. Others are perfect for readers of any age. And all of them are just the balm for the soul that our fevered materialistic age so desperately needs. Do read her stories, however you can. They are available in hardback books, in free on-line downloads, and just about any other form you might want. Three cheers for Louisa May Alcott.