Thursday, January 2, 2014

Classic Kids review: Kitty's Class Day by Louisa May Alcott


Title: Kitty's Class Day and Other Proverb Stories, by Louisa May Alcott, 189 pages
Publisher: Duke Classics, Open Library edition.  Orig. publication 1882.
Source: Library, on-line ebook collection

Note: The edition I read retained the original title, unlike the cover I'm showing here (i.e., included the "proverb stories" part).

Summary: Contains eight stories of various lengths, but most if not all with pretty transparent "lessons" for the young reader.  Stories are:
Kitty's Class Day
Aunt Kipp
Psyche's Art
A Country Christmas
On Picket Duty
The Baron's Gloves; or, Amy's Romance
My Red Cap
What the Bells Saw and Said

It is always challenging to review books from another age.  My reaction to the moralizing tone of these stories is not the same, I'm sure, as the reaction of the young reading of 1882.  But for my readers, who are more modern, be warned: these are, indeed, "proverb" stories, and the lessons range from well-mixed in the story to hit-you-over-the-head (see final story, "What the Bells Saw and Said," which is pretty much a critique of a self-centered and materialistic society.  If it hadn't been interesting from a "plus ca change" perspective, it would have been unreadable).

My favorite story was probably "Psyche's Art," wherein the girl learns that she is only able to be the artist she feels herself to be after taking care of home responsibilities (not a lesson I'm completely comfortable with as she set it, but the point is largely valid, I think).  Best, at the end, Alcott's own carefully hidden feminism comes to the fore, and she ends by leaving it to the reader to choose if she and the hero fell in love, married, and lived happily ever after or, if "those who can conceive of a world outside of a wedding-ring may believe that the friends remained faithful friends all their lives" and Psyche was quite happy with her art and her home, no man apparently necessary.

I don't think I would particularly recommend this book for children (I am frankly unsure if I recommend any of Alcott for young girls; there is an awfully strong sense that marriage and family are the highest goal for the female of the species, only occasionally challenged by a character who proves otherwise.  I think from Alcott's biography that she was a little afraid to be as feminist as she felt).  But like many books from the period, which was near the beginning of the creation of books purely for children, it is interesting and educational for the student of history and culture.

Disclaimer: I checked Kitty's Class Day out from my public (digital) library, and received nothing from the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed herein are my own and those of no one else. 


  1. Thanks. I love Alcott, despite my mixed feelings. Some of these stories were far from her best work, though.


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