Publication Date: 1869
This was my first time ever continuing on with the Little Women series and while it was nowhere near as good as the iconic first book I did end up enjoying it. At the end of Little Women Jo declares that her lifelong dream is to open a boarding school for boys where she can love on them and her husband, Fritz, can teach them. This book follows along with the adventures of the school and is almost entirely focused on the lives of the boys who live there.
It took me about a hundred or so pages to get invested in the story but once I did I flew through it. This book definitely reads to me like a middle grade by which I mean it is not a very complex story. It does have her signature morality stories and her feminism that comes through as well. Little Men was published in 1869 so obviously her perception of what female equality and empowerment look like are antiquated in our eyes but she was a big believer in the suffragette movement. In fact she has the distinction of being the first women in her state of Massachusetts to register to vote. She also refused to be married because she never wanted to compromise her work in order to put the effort in that being a wife entailed in the late 1800’s. I bring this up because I think it is important to remember the times that classics are written in and to appreciate how innovative or anti establishment an author might have been during their lives. Especially since parts of this book were laughable compared to our modern standards of how the girls at the school are perceived and expected to behave.
My favorite part of this book was the character of Dan. He is one of the boys that comes to the school through a recommendation given to him by a friend who also attends the Bhaer school. Dan doesn’t make it easy for himself or Jo and her husband but I loved how they never gave up on him. For a book written in the 1860’s there is a lot of great advice given on how to love a kid through the tough times. It was a beautiful reminder of how love and kindness can heal more than anger and tough words.
Eventually I want to read the third book in this series, Jo’s Boys, which is set ten years after the end of this one. I am looking forward to seeing where these characters end up and I have certain hopes for some of them. I am a boy mom of three so for me this book was very heartwarming and inspiring. I love the slice of life from roughly a hundred and fifty years ago and how kids were being raised then. So much has changed but the parts I really loved were the things that haven’t.