I wanted to round out my year of audiobook listening with something warm and homey. I considered listening again to Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, but then I came across a collection of her Christmas stories and thought that sounded perfect. The stories recorded here are:
“Gwen’s Adventure in the Snow”: A group of children of varying ages go on a sleighing expedition to their country house and end up getting caught in a snowstorm with their horses running off. The children take refuge in the house and have to try to come up with food and a way to get warm.
“Rosa’s Tale”: Children discussing the legend that animals can speak for an hour after midnight on Christmas hear their horse’s life story.
“What Polly Found in Her Stocking”: a poem about a girl’s stocking presents.
“A Hospital Christmas”: a warm and caring nurse makes Christmas brighter for patients in a military hospital during the Civil War era.
“A Country Christmas”: A girl staying with her aunt in the country invites two city friends to spend the holidays with them.
“Mrs. Podgers Teapot”: A woman who feels she is making her dead husband happy by not remarrying falls in love.
“Peace From Heaven”: Another poem.
“The Quiet Little Woman”: A girl in an orphanage is taken in to a home as a servant and longs for family love.
“A Christmas Dream and How It Came True”: A spoiled little girl has a sort-of Christmas Carol experience.
“A Song”: Another Christmas poem
“Kate’s Choice”: A teenage girl in England has lost her parents and is sent to live with each of her American uncles in order to choose which one to love with.
“Bertie’s Box”: A little boy overhears his mother and aunt talking about a needy family that they might try to do something for if they remember after getting their own plans done, and he decides to take matters into his own hands.
“What Love Can Do”: As two young girls lament the meager Christmas they are facing and share their wishes, a neighbor overhears and puts a little Christmas surprise in front of their door. Another neighbor sees this and adds his own, and so on.
Tessa’s Surprises: Tessa is the oldest daughter of a poor Italian family whose mother died. As she tries to come up with a way to provide a little something for her siblings for Christmas, she decides to go with an older boy who plays a harp to various places in the city to sing and see if she can earn a few pennies.
A Christmas Turkey: A father demoralized by work problems neglects his family.The children want to do various tasks to earn money at least for a nice Christmas dinner for the family and meet with various benefactors in the process.
Becky’s Christmas Dream: Becky is a 12 year old orphan from a poorhouse bound to work for a certain family until she is eighteen. She is sad at being left behind to tend the house while the family goes out to celebrate Christmas. As the clock strikes 12, either the animals and household items start talking or Becky starts dreaming, but either way they tell how they learned contentment in their assigned tasks.
A Merry Christmas: A section from Little Women where the girls give their Christmas breakfast to a poor family and put on a play in the evening.
A New Way to Spend Christmas: An assemblage of people visit an orphanage, touched by the plight of the children and heartened by the example of one ministering to them..
Tilly’s Christmas: A poor girl rescues a bird and is rewarded by an unseen benefactor with a special Christmas.
My favorites were Kate’s Choice and What Love Can Do.
I actually have “The Quiet Little Woman” in book form – it’s been on my shelf for years, and I thought I had read it, but as it started, it did not sound at all familiar to me. The book contains that story as well as Tilly’s Christmas and Rosa’s Tale.
All of the stories are in much the same spirit as Little Women: there are morals; encouragements to be brave and good and kind and to work hard and to remember and give to the poor; the simple and homey is revered above the showy and rich. In some places, like Aunt Plumey’s frank opinions in “A Country Christmas, the moral comes on a little strong by today’s standards, but was well received by the hearers in the story. Some of the stories seem more steeped in sentimentally than her books – maybe because the books have other events or maybe because Christmas stories seem to bring that out.
I didn’t look up the dates of all the stories, but the ones I did search out were written after Little Women, some of them published in magazines.
I’ve seen several collections of Alcott’s Christmas stories in print form that contain some combination of these, but I don’t think there is one that matches up exactly with the audiobook. The text of some of them can be found online by searching for the story title.
The narrator gave a valiant effort, even adding a little bit of a whinny to a horse’s voice, but I didn’t quite warm up to her.
But I am glad to have come across these and familiarized myself with some of Alcott’s stories that I hadn’t known before.
(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)
I’ve enjoyed most of these wonderful stories in book form and since I love listening to audio books, I can just imagine how great they’d be to listen to. I’ll be marking my calendar to remember to look for audio versions next December. Thanks for your review of the narration–so important for it to be the right reader!
We just went to Orchard House (!!!) in Concord, and I ALMOST bought a collection of her Christmas short stories there. Instead, I bought the annotated Little Women. It was hard to leave the other title on the shelf, though. 🙂
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Do any of these stories involve orphans receiving a gift of combs? (I’m trying to track down a mysterious book!)
I don’t recall any like that, but it’s been a year since I listened to them. Unfortunately, since it’s an audiobook, I can’t flip through it like I could a paper or e-book. I hope you find it!