Did you know that there are not one, but two books after the classic Little Women? I have sadly owned both since I was 9 years old, but for some reason, never read them. I read Little Women and An Old Fashioned Girl several times and also read Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, Under the Lilac Bush, Jack and Jill, and A Long Fatal Love Chase. I thought this was a good reason to put both Little Men and Jo’s Boys on my Classics Club list. It is about time I read them!
Little Men continues the story of the March family, focusing on a school run by the now married Jo and Professor Bhaer in Aunt March’s old home, Plumfield. The Bhaers now have two sons of their own, but consider all of the children at the school as part of the family. They also have Meg and John’s twins, Demi and Daisy as students. Laurie (Mr. Lawrence) likes to help the school out and stops by with his and Amy’s beautiful daughter, Bess. “Dear Jo! I have known what it is to be a motherless boy, and I never can forget how much you and yours have done for me all of these years.”
Laurie also sends a new boy to the school at the start of the novel, Nat. Nat has lived basically homeless as a street musician with a father who beat him. Now an orphan, he is starting a new at Plumfield. He has to learn how the school functions, and is happy later on when his old friend, Dan also joins him at the school. Dan is quite the rascal and causes various mishaps at the school. There is also a new girl, the exuberant Nan that joins the crew about halfway through the novel, to have a girl friend for Daisy. She is a tom boy who also gets into various scrapes. She is a lot like a young Jo, with Daisy like a young Meg. “Nan showed them that girls could do most things as well as boys, and some things better.” The novel tells the story of various happenings at the school throughout the year.
I was very intrigued on how the school was run, exposing many of the views of the March family and of the Alcott family in real life.
“This place is made for all sorts of boys to have a good time in, and to learn how to help themselves and be useful men, I hope.” I wonder if this is how Bronson Alcott’s school was set up.
“It’s an odd one, “laughed Mrs. Bhaer; “but you see we don’t believe in making children miserable by too many rules, and too much study.” She tells Nat this when describing the Saturday night pillow fight the kids are allowed to have each week. They can only pillow fight during this time period and if they don’t follow the rules, they aren’t allowed any pillow fight. It seems like a great idea.
“As fast as the toys were mended, they were put carefully away in a certain drawer which was to furnish forth a Christmas tree for all the poor children of the neighborhood, that being the way the Plumfield boys celebrated the birthday of Him who loved the poor and blessed the little ones.” Charity, doing well to others, and hard work are themes of the school.
“Dan went down more tamed by kindness than he would have by the good whipping which Asia had strongly recommended.” The Alcotts seem to be early adopters of not spanking your children. What we think of as a new fad, is not so new after all.
My seven year old son Daniel picked up this book and questioned why I was reading an “easy” book. I told him how I have had it since I was a kid and am finally reading it, which he thought was great. He liked that there was a boy named Dan in it and I read him several parts of the book out loud. He was very entertained so this book may be in his near future!
This description in the book reminded me of Daniel, “Rob was an energetic morsel of a boy who seemed to have discovered the secret of perpetual motion, for he was never still. “ I hope he also will be the following, “Happy the son whose faith in his mother remains unchanged, and who, through all his wanderings, has kept some filial token to replay her brave and tender love.”
I’m glad I finally read Little Men. I loved the characters and the continuation of one of my favorite novels. I think I loved it more as an adult looking at it from Jo’s point of view as a married mother. I think that as a child, I may not have ever finished reading it because the main stories are all about boys . . . and I loved girl protagonist. There is actually a coloring page I used in the book for a bookmark that is from 1987. Ha! One thing I did not enjoy about the novel is that Meg, John Brooke, Amy, and Mr. and Mrs. March are only side characters hardly ever mentioned. When a family tragedy happens in the end of the novel, I feel it didn’t have as much emotional impact as it would have had the family been more prominent through the novel. It was an emotional impact for me as I have read and loved Little Women, but if you were reading Little Men as a stand-alone novel, it would have seemed an odd feature of the story without the impact I’m sure Alcott was trying to put into the story.
One last quote from the novel, “Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a useful root we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes.”
Book Source: I received this book from a book order when I was nine years old and I’m finally reading it now!