100 Chapter Books Project: Little Women

little women

The second oldest book on the Top 100 Chapter Books list is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868). It’s a bonafide American classic as it has tons of versions currently in print (including four versions and a mug from Penguin) and multiple movie versions (released from 1917-1994).

What it’s about: Four sisters–Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy–mature from teens into women in an unnamed New England town, experiencing friendship, romance, learning, and loss.

Age level: Grade 5+

Best part: For a Victorian-era novel, this is a very readable book, probably because it was written for children. Also … Laurie.

Worst part: So. Many. Morals. The moralizing was ever-present and quite heavy-handed. It got tedious after a while. Also … Amy.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

Even after finishing, I still can’t remember if I’ve ever read it before. It seems like I should have but I might just be remembering parts of the story from watching the Katharine Hepburn movie with my mom. Anyway, I’m also not sure that a lot of children would enjoy this story these days. I’m sure there ARE some who would read and enjoy it as historical fiction (as they would with the Little House books) but, at 500 pages, it’s long for a non-fantasy book, and the second half that deals with romance, marriage and the like might just be confusing or boring to a lot of kids.  This really seems like more of an adult read now (except for all of the moralizing). Bottom line — I wouldn’t buy this for my ten-year-old niece but I might suggest she look for it at the library and give it a try!

I’m so excited for my next read, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. In fact, I’m going to reread the whole His Dark Materials series over the holiday break. I’ve been waiting for a good excuse!

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Schedule – January through March
note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after
December 30 – Winter Break
January 15 – #28 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995)
January 31 – #95 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943)
February 15 – #20 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2000)
February 28 – #49 My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (1948)
March 15 – #39 The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2007)

100 Chapter Books Project: Clementine

Clementine

Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker is one of those newer books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list, published just eight years ago in 2006. It’s #62 on the list which means it got a few votes but, after reading the book, I’m wondering if that was just because it was fresh in the minds of some of the voters in 2012.

What it’s about: Clementine is a “precocious” young 4th grader who constantly finds herself in trouble, whether she intends to be or not.

Age level: Grade 2-4

Best part: Clementine is constantly being told to pay attention. Her response (in her head) is that she IS paying attention, just to other, more important, things than the teacher, like the people outside or the other kids. And she does really see all sorts of important and interesting things. I think it’s important to let kids know that it’s okay to have a mind that works differently from the norm.

Worst part: There are far too many instances of girls cutting off all of their hair in this book! Okay, so it’s just two but that seems like two too many to me.

Verdict: Borrow

This was a very quick read but I still felt like I wanted to finish it quickly. The book just seemed too much like an “issue” story, taking on a quirky child (presumably with an attention-deficit disorder based on her wandering mind and inability to sit still) and showing what was going on in her head. But she was so similar to Harriet M. Welsch or Ramona Quimby that this story just didn’t seem fresh. Also, the way the principal and teachers and her friend’s mom treated her felt more like it was decades old. They were nagging, dismissive, rude and made zero effort to work with her unique way of looking at things and her physical and emotional needs. It was generally an okay story but I just didn’t fall in love with Clementine. She had one moment of brilliance (fixing a pigeon poop issue) and one of real thoughtfulness (cutting her hair to make her friend feel better) but otherwise it was a bit of a humdrum story.

Next up is Little Women which I am pretty sure I’ve read once before because, after one chapter, there is as much that is familiar to me as not. Of course, I’ve also seen a couple of film versions so that could be why too.

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Schedule – December through February
note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after
December 15 – #47 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)
December 30 – Winter Break
January 15 – #28 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995)
January 31 – #95 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943)
February 15 – #20 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2000)
February 28 – #49 My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (1948)