|An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott, illustrated by James Bernardin. HarperCollins, 2005.|
One of my favorite books as a child was Louisa Alcott: Girl of Old Boston by Jean Brown Wagoner [Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943]. My grandma scored it at an estate sale, and gave it to me to read while we drove to Colorado for summer vacation. I read this book many, many times. By the time I was twelve, I was ready to tackle Little Women, and my other grandma gave me a copy while I stayed with her and my grandpa in Oklahoma. I do love the March sisters and Marmee and Laurie. A few years ago, I read an adult biography of Louisa May Alcott, which I wanted to read after watching a documentary about her on PBS.
Yet I have never read anything else written by Louisa May Alcott herself. I never read Little Men or Jo's Boys, An Old-Fashioned Girl or any of her gothic tales. As I searched the library website for interesting Thanksgiving books, though, I found this picture book adaptation of her short story "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving." I thought the illustrations were beautiful, and while it's a simplified version of Alcott's original story [you can read it here], it was a perfect cozy read for my daughters and me. (Oh! James Bernardin illustrated the adorable Yes, Virginia, which became one of Little Sis's favorite holiday specials! I did not know that until I went hunting for links...)
The story is simple. A large New England family is about to start preparing their Thanksgiving meal when a visitor arrives. Grandmother is sick, the parents must go at once. The oldest daughter decides the children should cook the feast themselves. Some mistakes are made. Suddenly the youngest children burst through the door. People are coming! It's mother and father, aunts and uncles, and Grandmother herself! It turned out the messenger had the story completely wrong. The family sits down to the meal the older daughters made. There are some comical moments - what is in the stuffing? - but the family is appreciative of the girls' effort. Music and dancing follow, in a scene that rivals the sugar snow dance at Grandpa's in Little House in the Big Woods.
I have this wonderful image in my head of me, curled up with the girls and a big quilt, snuggled up and reading Little Women someday. It will be a winter read, as the Christmas scenes are so beautifully written in that book. I will wait until they are older; the language is a bit too difficult now. Then we will watch the 1933 film version with Katharine Hepburn, since it's probably closest to the book, and the 1994 version with Winona Ryder, which borrows so wonderfully from Alcott's own life story. The 1994 version also gives us a Professor Bhaer that almost makes up for Jo refusing Laurie. I've always had a bit of a weakness for Gabriel Byrne.
P.S. I might have had Louisa on my mind thanks to Heather at Audrey Eclectic. She went on a lovely trip to New England last month, which included a visit to Orchard House! And look at her beautiful Little Women-inspired folk art painting, too.
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