Little Women Next Door

Sheila Solomon Klass, Author Holiday House $15.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8234-1472-7
Klass's (Shooting Star: A Novel About Annie Oakley) storytelling runs thin in this earnest historical novel set during Louisa May Alcott's girlhood. Susan, a shy, stammering 11-year-old from a hardworking farm family, chronicles the Alcotts' brief stay at Fruitlands, the Transcendentalist community founded in part by Louisa's idealistic father, the educator Bronson Alcott, and visited by such luminaries as Thoreau. Susan and Louisa instantly become best friends, and Mr. Alcott, the Fruitlands schoolteacher, includes Susan in his classes. Louisa comes across as melodramatic and headstrong, an overdone version of Little Women's beloved Jo (e.g., Louisa instructs Susan to cure her stutter by pretending to be King Alfonso of Spain, stamping her foot and declaiming, ""Begone, vile stammer""). The various other Alcotts either seem like shadows of Louisa May Alcott's fictional characters or fit stereotypes about intellectuals. The best moments come from Susan's musings about the adults, including her surprise at the skimpy menus (no animal products or animal by-products are allowed) and her bemusement at the great thinkers' heated discussions in the fields while they neglect their crops. While Klass sets the stage for Fruitlands' eventual demise, the story dwindles rather than climaxes. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
Genre: Children's
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