Cover image for Becoming little women : a novel about Louisa May at Fruitlands
Becoming little women : a novel about Louisa May at Fruitlands
Publication Information:
New York : Putnam's, c2001.
Physical Description:
202 p.
Geographic Term:
Relates events in author Louisa May Alcott's tenth year, 1843, when her family moved from Boston to a farm where, along with an odd assortment of idealists, they try to establish a community based on equality and love.


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Louisa May Alcott was ten years old when her father decided to move the family to a farm called Fruitlands, to dress everybody in identical linen trousers, to give up sugar, milk, even honey. He had wanted to show the world how to live a pure life without money, and without exploiting other people or animals. Though at first this "Newness" seemed exciting to Louisa and her sisters-could they make a difference in how other people thought? Could they live on love alone?-the children soon saw that it was hard work, sometimes too hard, for a family to be so noble. After nearly nine months of trying to live a pure life, when the family was almost both starving and freezing to death, when all the other friends and helpers had given up on the utopian vision, the Alcotts finally moved back to town. But the experience would stay with Louisa May Alcott forever. Using fragments of Louisa May Alcott's diary, as well as the writing of others who lived at Fruitlands, Jeannine Atkins has recreated what it must have been like for the future author of Little Women to spend that fascinating, but ultimately, frightening year of self-sacrifice.

Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-This novel is based on diaries, journals, letters, and biographies, and covers six months of the Alcotts' life in 1844. Louisa May is almost 11, and her family is moving again. Her father is anxious to share his ideals and thoughts with like-minded thinkers, create a community, and spread his philosophy about a better way to live. Now strict vegetarians, Louisa and her sisters miss the butter, eggs, cheese, and the small amount of meat that they used to eat. They wear linen clothes that itch, avoiding the cotton that comes from the labor of slaves, and they use no animals for work or products that come from them. Life at Fruitlands is a constant struggle with the elements. Louisa uses her free time to run through the small orchard and climb her favorite apple tree to write down her thoughts and stories. Her father is constantly journeying throughout New England with his friend Mr. Lane to spread the word about the "Newness," leaving his wife and children to run the farm. Emaciation and illness begin to debilitate the family, and Louisa's mother knows that she must take her daughters elsewhere or they will die. The plot moves along well and one gets a real sense of the frustration at having to live such an austere life and of the extreme devotion to a man obsessed with a dream. This story could be used as a stepping stone to Cornelia Meigs's Invincible Louisa (Little, Brown, 1995) and Alcott's own Little Women.-Patti Gonzales, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) All eleven-year-old Louisa May wants is a happy family. That goal becomes increasingly difficult at Fruitlands, the farm her father brings the family to in order to realize his utopian goal of living in harmony with nature and with one another. Despite Bronson Alcott's idyllic vision, tension reigns among the members of the community, and even within Louisa's family. ""Newspapers and neighbors right next door"" only begins the list of what each member must renounce to take up residence at Fruitlands. For Mother, the experiment puts at risk the health of her four daughters, something she will not abide. Though it is forbidden to exploit animals, she even sneaks out at night to milk a cow to nourish the sickly Abby. Atkins puts Louisa at the center of these strains: Louisa adores and wishes to please her father; she loves and suffers for her mother's many selfless hardships. Louisa's salvation is her journal, on which Atkins bases much of this well-researched historical novel. But salvation also lies in Louisa's temperament-she will not be patient like her good mother and sisters, who ask only for better faith. She will stand up for her father's noble ideas, and she will stand up to her father's foolishness. Atkins offers a trustworthy dose of reality for future readers of Little Women who may believe there is only romance in Louisa's story of ""becoming little women."" (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Gr. 4-6. In her first novel, picture-book author Atkins imagines what life must have been like for Louisa May Alcott on her father's famous experimental farm, Fruitlands. Like her famous alter ego, Jo March, Louisa is smart, quick-tempered, and easily frustrated. She loves her father and believes in his abolitionist views, but she has trouble adjusting to the rigid new way of life on the communal farm. Atkins presents Bronson Alcott as a good man, perhaps too concerned with the ideal and not sufficiently aware of the needs of family, and she does a good job explaining some his more radical beliefs concerning clothing and food and their connection to slavery. Kids who have read Little Women will enjoy the allusions to the famous book, and a few who know something about the history of the time may even catch the slyly dropped references to "Mr. and Mrs. Emerson" and "Mr. Thoreau." A reader's note at the end ties up the story. Excerpts from Louisa May Alcott's journals are woven into the text. --Marta Segal