I recently discovered with much excitement that 2018 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The world of the March sisters-Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy-is one I have revisited countless times and it ties with Avonlea and my beloved Anne of Green Gables as my all time favorite. There is something so comforting about escaping into the heartwarming pages of this story and each time I reread I’m struck by different character or lines. I’m know I’m not alone in imagining myself as Jo and drawing strength from this smart, courageous heroine as a young girl. Now, as a mother, I also find in Marmee inspiration for the kind of wise, loving parent I hope to become. Whether you’re taking up Little Women for the first time or the fourteenth, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate this incredible story.
Here are eighteen ways you can celebrate all things Louisa May Alcott in 2018:
- Read Little Women on your own or aloud to the little ones in your life.
If you’re rereading, try The Annotated Little Women edited by John Matteson. I recently bought this enormous, amazing edition and it is positively loaded with interesting historical notes, Alcott trivia, and photographs to enhance your reading experience. Some of my favorites so far are photographs of Anna Alcott’s wedding dress and a page of Little Women’s original manuscript, a Norman Rockwell illustration of Jo, and Abigail Alcott’s recipe for sugar gingerbread.
2. Read this board book, Little Women: A Playtime Primer, the perfect bedtime story for your baby or toddler.
3. Visit Orchard House, in Concord Massachusetts.
I’m lucky enough to live a mere 20 minutes away from the home in which Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women and based the story. If you’re not so fortunate, Orchard House, now a museum, is still well worth the pilgrimage for any Alcott fan. I brought my daughter for the first time last weekend and was amazed once again at how lovingly preserved the Alcott’s home is. On a guided tour you can stand in Louisa’s bedroom and look at the desk where she wrote Little Women. You get to see the sketches May (Amy) drew on her bedroom walls and her many paintings created on trips to Europe. There’s Abigail’s (Marmee’s) family china, Anna’s (Meg’s) marriage certificate in the room where she married John Pratt and so much more. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable about all things Alcott and there is a shop that will surely break the budget of any Little Women fan with all of the wonderful books, ornaments, and memorabilia available. Orchard House has also created a Little Women Sesquicentennial website. So far they have put up a great photo gallery and it looks like there will be a calendar of events and a blog.
4. While you’re in Concord, check out the Concord Bookshop.
Stock up on Alcott titles and the works of local literary figures who were Louisa’s neighbors: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
5. Read this biography of Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen and learn about “The Woman Behind Little Women”.
I picked up this book when it first came out in 2010 and found it impossible to put down. Reisen brings Louisa to life and it is because of this book that I became just a tad (ok, a lot) obsessed with Alcott herself and the ways her life intersects with the fictional Jo March.
6. Read Eight Cousins, my other favorite book by Louisa May Alcott.
Meet Rose, another unconventional heroine whose family life and world you’ll want to inhabit. You can also visit Eight Cousins bookstore in Falmouth, Massachusetts, named after the children’s book classic.
Their website says they are currently renovating, but should open this spring.
7. Read the first book in the wonderful middle grade series, “The Mother Daughter Book Club” in which a group of girls living in Concord read Little Women with their moms and become friends.
I recommend this middle grade series in the library all the time. It’s stellar realistic fiction and as a bonus, it often inspires students to read the book club books which in addition to Little Women include Anne of Green Gables, Betsy-Tacy, Pride and Prejudice and more.
8. Check out the website and blog Louisa May Alcott is My Passion by Alcott enthusiast Susan Bailey.
9. Pop some popcorn, get the kleenex ready and watch the classic 1995 Little Women movie adaptation starring Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Claire Danes, and Christian Bale.
10. Read Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother by Eve LaPlante.
Learn about Abigail Alcott’s backstory growing up in the wealthy May family in Boston and the inspirational role she played in Louisa’s life.
11. Pair Marmee and Louisa with a reading of Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, for a look at the complicated Bronson Alcott.
This is a fascinating look at Louisa’s father, a philosopher, teacher, and writer whose financial ineptitude and strict beliefs often led to much more challenging circumstances than the fictional Marches faced.
12. Visit Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts to see where Bronson Alcott moved the family for an experiment in “communal living”.
If you’re from Massachusetts, check to see if your library has a museum pass for discounted admission. Fruitlands is one of the 116 properties you can visit with a “Trustees of the Reservations GO Pass”.
13. Become a member of the Louisa May Alcott Society. Yes, this is real! I just discovered it and am signing up immediately.
14. Order yourself some Little Women swag to get in the spirit.
15. Read the fantastic new historical fiction book The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper.
Walk in the shoes of May Alcott as she contends with her portrayal as Amy, the March sister no one wanted to be, while trying to make it as an artist in Boston and Europe and come out from the shadow of her famous sister.
16. Attend the 2018 Summer Conversations series at Orchard House July 15th-19th: “Little Women in the 21st Century: Celebrating 150 Years of Inspiration” . More details are still to come, but according to the website “Speakers and participants in this year’s Summer Conversational Series will examine why Little Women is still important in the 21st century, what difference it has made over time in the world of literature, and what it means to readers today.” Lectures by Little Women experts and discussions with devoted fans of the book? Sign me up!
17. Watch the Masterpiece adaptation of Little Women coming to PBS in May. I’m normally hesitant about new movie versions, but the trailer looks wonderful!
18. Last but not least, introduce a future Alcott fan to Little Women. Recommend the book or gift a copy to an adult or child in your life!
Nothing makes me happier than recommending Little Women to one of my students in the library and then finding out they loved the book. My ten-month-old daughter also has a growing collection of Alcott books ready and waiting for her!