Two Years of Scribbling in the Garret

May Alcott's original illustration of Jo scribbling away at her writing,  from the two-volume publication of LIttle Women.
May Alcott’s original illustration of Jo scribbling away at her writing, from the two-volume publication of LIttle Women.

I realized this blog has been in existence for two years today almost by accident. If a date’s not written on my planner—and is not, say, my husband or child’s birthday—I tend to forget it. And a blog anniversary (I can’t really use the word “blogiversary” with a straight face, even when I’m typing) isn’t the kind of thing you really mark on your calendar. So, the first anniversary went entirely forgotten.

But, it is, in fact, two years to the day since this little experiment in blogging began, and to honor the occasion, I’d like—once again—to have a little celebration of Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, and Jo March. Only this time, I’ve got lovely pictures.

The very gorgeous cover of an 1880 edition of Little Women (both volumes together at last!).
The very gorgeous cover of an 1880 edition of Little Women (both volumes together at last!).

Harvard’s Houghton Library is a veritable treasure trove of intriguing literary stuff. In this case, it’s illustrations from the original two-volume publication of Little Women, illustrated by her sister May Alcott. I wondered what May must have been thinking as she illustrated these two volumes and found the fictionalized version of herself—the artist sister—therein. Was she hurt by Louisa’s portrayal of Amy? Offended that her sister made herself the heroine of the story? Grateful that in the end this same writer-sister fixed her up with Laurie (because who wouldn’t be, really)?

Oh, Laurie, couldn't you see you belonged with me and not Amy?
Oh, Laurie, couldn’t you see you belonged with me and not Amy?

Or was she able to celebrate her sister’s literary achievement just as we still celebrate it today? In my spare time (ha!), I’m going to do some research and try to find out. But for now, enjoy the illustrations, and thanks for being a part of what’s now an ongoing blog experiment!

1868_LittleWomen_byLMAlcott_RobertsBros

On Hallowed Ground: Louisa May Alcott’s House

Louisa May Alcott's houseThere are two things that this blog makes clear that I love: Star Wars (original trilogy only, thank you very much) and Louisa May Alcott. Today, I’ll spare you my thoughts on the former and focus instead on the latter. This blog got its name from Jo March’s description of her writing in Little Women, after all.

So it was a special treat to recently visit Orchard House, the Alcott family’s home for many years, and where Louisa wrote Little Women—with a group of fellow writers and dear friends.

SAM_0608
My fellow literary pilgrims: Samantha, Karyn, Susanna, and Kerri.

Alas, the good folks at Orchard House won’t let you take pictures inside the house, or else I’d flood this blog with pictures of her writing desk or the drawings that her youngest sister May (who was the inspiration for Amy March in the book) created on the walls of her bedroom.

But I can tell you this: being in this house and stepping through the rooms where Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote is, for me, treading on hallowed ground. I realize that for most people the idea of a pilgrimage involves a journey that’s religious in nature. For me, it’s always literary.

Louisa May Alcott's house
Bronson Alcott’s small school house is on the same property on which the family lived.

Whether it’s sitting in Edith Wharton’s garden, pretending to be Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, exploring my first moor (HEATHCLIFF!), or walking down the very street in Bath upon which Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth finally, irrevocably, pledged themselves to each other in Persuasion, my idea of sacred ground is almost always tied to the books I love.

And Orchard House is no exception. So, I want to share these pictures of this lovely place—and the ladies with whom I got to share the experience—with you. I hope you enjoy them…and maybe even share some memories of your own favorite literary pilgrimages!

Louisa May Alcott's house
Did Louisa May Alcott once sit in this very spot? One can only dream….

 

Children’s Books Worthy of a Blizzard Read

A blizzard is coming—as least it is in our neck of the woods. The meteorologists are predicting more snow in the next two days than I’ve seen at one time in my whole life. Groceries have been purchased, schools have been cancelled, and hatches have been battened down.

And what could be better on an extraordinarily snowy day than curling up under a toasty blanket and reading a good book with the little person in your life?

Nothing really.

So here are a few of my snowy day favorites, in all shapes and sizes (and age ranges)!

The Snowy DayEzra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day:  Sure, this one is a no-brainer, but only because it is so enduringly wonderful. As a former city kid, seeing Peter venture out into the cityscape transformed by snow is nearly irresistible. And when he finally finds the kid across to hall in the end to share the snow with, it’s a thing of beauty. Lovely to look at, fun to read.

A Perfect Day

 

Carin Berger, A Perfect Day:  Gorgeous snowy artwork overlays handwritten notes as seeming an entire town’s worth of kids come out to frolic in the snow. At the end of the perfect day, there are warm hugs and even warmer steaming mugs of hot chocolate—and the promise of another perfect day in the snow tomorrow. A new favorite!

Virginia Lee Burton, Katy and the Big Snow

 

Virginia Lee Burton, Katy and the Big Snow:  Just because Geoppolis has had a blizzard’s worth of snow dumped on it doesn’t mean that life stops, and that people don’t still need to get places. Only Katy—tractor turned strong plow—can dig everyone out and get whole town running again. Girl power on the tractor level, and Virginia Lee Burton’s artwork to boot—it’s a winner.

Jennifer Plecas, Emma's Magic Winter

Jean Little and Jennifer Plecas, Emma’s Magic Winter:  Another new favorite, this sweet and gently funny tale of shy Emma finding her voice—with a little help from a new neighbor and their matching “magic” snow boots—has won over hearts in my house. Perfect for young independent readers, with a message about overcoming one’s fears that comes with a spoonful of sugar, and lot of fun in the snow.

 

Ernest ShackletonJennifer Armstrong, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World:  Looking to share your obsession with Ernest Shackleton with the young person in your life? Wait, you’re not obsessed with Ernest Shackleton? This book will make you a convert. Details abound about this ill-fated trip of Antarctic exploration in which the ship got smashed on ice, the entire crew had to set up shop on the ever-moving ice—and not a single life was lost. Illustrated with some of Frank Hurley’s original photography from the ordeal, this also features some pretty awesome storytelling.

Jo March, Little Women

 

Louise May Alcott, Little Women:  Hey, the blog is named after Jo March. You had to see this one coming. The whole book is pure gold, but the wintery scene in which Jo first becomes friends with the ailing Laurie practically glows. Perfect with a warm beverage and someone who likes to snuggle up as you read aloud to them.

For everyone facing the storm today, bundle up, stay safe, and have fun!