cover image Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott

Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott

Yona Zeldis McDonough, , illus. by Bethanne Andersen. . Holt/Ottaviano, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-8192-3

Enchanting gouache and pastel paintings adorn this thorough biography of Little Women author Alcott. Painted in a somewhat naïve style with elongated, flowing lines, single portraits of Alcott dominate several of Andersen’s (Patience Wright ) spreads. Natural elements like feathers and flowers pattern her dresses and decorate the background, evoking her love of nature. While the fluid compositions evoke a carefree tone, textured gold backdrops, dark hues and serious facial expressions underscore the sadness and disappointments of Alcott’s short life, including a sister’s early death and her family’s poverty. McDonough’s (The Doll with the Yellow Star ) plainspoken narrative, confined to filmy, rectangular canvases on each page, provides numerous anecdotes to keep the story paced and interesting. Readers learn of her father’s alternative, ahead-of-his-time views on education and diet, as well as Louisa’s efforts to help her impoverished family with finances (“Once she tried to earn money as a doll’s dressmaker. She chased the neighbor’s hens for their feathers and made fancy dolls’ hats to sell”). Endnotes provide a time line, some of the author’s quotations and early poetry, and even a favorite recipe for “apple slump.” Ages 6–10. (Aug.)