Little Women (Penguin Readers, Level 1) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2000/3/28
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This is the classic story of the four March sisters - Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Their story of their loves, problems and adventures is sometimes sad, often funny, but always charming. "Penguin Readers" is a series of simplified novels, film novelizations and original titles that introduce students at all levels to the pleasures of reading in English. Originally designed for teaching English as a foreign language, the series' combination of high interest level and low reading age makes it suitable for both English-speaking teenagers with limited reading skills and students of English as a second language. Many titles in the series also provide access to the pre-20th century literature strands of the National Curriculum English Orders. "Penguin Readers" are graded at seven levels of difficulty, from "Easystarts" with a 200-word vocabulary, to Level 6 (Advanced) with a 3000-word vocabulary. In addition, titles fall into one of three sub-categories: "Contemporary", "Classics" or "Originals". At the end of each book there is a section of enjoyable exercises focusing on vocabulary building, comprehension, discussion and writing. Some titles in the series are available with an accompanying audio cassette, or in a book and cassette pack. Additionally, selected titles have free accompanying "Penguin Readers Factsheets" which provide stimulating exercise material for students, as well as suggestions for teachers on how to exploit the Readers in class.
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
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In an age of easily digested and mass-produced books with weak characters and plot, "Little Women" is a stand-out that resists the passage of time for its exemplary characters, theme of family unity, and love on so many different levels (friendship, familial, true love, and romantic love).
Readers today might find the writing and occasional chirpiness of the March sisters when faced with their poverty a bit difficult to relate to, but knowing stories of how my own mother and sisters faced the Depression and then WWII in the UK made me realise from an early age that trying to find things to rejoice in is essential to surviving tragedy and loss on a personal level.
The March sisters encapsulate female society in most countries even now, and are well-written individual characters, each with a different goal they wish to fulfil in life. The girls do not become career women, and their parents do preach the importance of family life and sacrifice, however, each one does what was expected of young girls at that time. Jo's daring in writing a sensationalist "man's" story and insisting on payment commensurate with a man was unheard of in those days and when one considers that women are still underpaid, it makes Jo's triumph still relative today. Amy's goal of being comfortably well-off is eventually tempered by her own personal sorrow at the poor health of her own little Beth, Meg wants to be a mother and wife, and she learns not to overachieve, and Beth who overcomes pathological shyness through her altruism and empathy for others and which leads to her death is still inspirational today.
My suggestion is that if you have a daughter, sister, granddaughter or friend, take turns reading it. It will improve your vocabulary, make you smile, and dear Beth's stoicism will bring a tear to your eye.
If you haven't read Little Women, then you are missing one of the most seminal works written by a female American Authoress. If you're looking for complex characters, plots and subplots, bad language, explicit sex and violence--then look elsewhere. Alcott writes from life--all of her books are to some extent auto-biographical, and this one most of all. Her characters are plain and may seem almost simplistic, and "modern" girls might wonder at the complete lack of sex--and what Alcott considers "lovering" would seem like first or second grade stuff today. At the time she wrote--THIS WAS THE WAY PEOPLE LIVED AND THOUGHT.
Alcott isn't ashamed to write about timeless values like honor, faith, charity, and the importance of doing good in the world. She's not ashamed to show fathers and mothers who are involved with their children, and instruct them, "little women" who use their position of trust to teach by example. She isn't afraid, in other words, to include what used to be typical values in her works--because when she wrote, the things many people today consider quaint or outdated were the norm.
While these books were written as childrens', young adults' books, everyone should read them, often--and have their children read them. Living as Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth lived might get you laughed at by your so-called "friends"--but you'll earn the respect and admiration of the kind of people who are true friends. This world needs a lot more girls who are "little women" far more than we need another Myley Cyrus or two. You kids may laugh, or complain of being bored by this books and others Alcott wrote--but that doesn't mean they won't "get the message".
It's written in an old-fashioned style, and a little harder to follow than some more modern literature, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Even the rhythm of the words takes you back to a sweeter simpler time which was in reality a very harsh time in American history. For the uninitiated, LW details the life of four teen-aged sisters in the Civil War Era. Aside from their father being away from home during the first part of the book the war is not a main topic. It's all about the relationships between these sisters, their mother, their neighbor and later their budding romances.
Take your time with this one. Read it slowly and savor.