Book Review: The Mother-Daughter Book Club

In The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick, sixth-graders Emma and Jess are best friends in Concord Massachusetts.

Emma loves reading and writing. Her parents are big Jane Austen fans who named their kids after her characters. Her father is a writer, her mother, a librarian.

Jess lives on a farm with her father and brothers. Jess’s mom is an actress currently working in NYC.

Emma and Jess are definitely not among the popular girls, who tease Emma about wearing hand-me-downs and call Jess “Goat Girl.”

One of the “mean girls,” Megan, was Emma’s friend years ago. But now their paths have diverged. Megan loves style and design, but her mother has dreams of math and science camp and MIT and Harvard for her.

Cassidy is a new student who loves sports, especially hockey. She’s tomboyish and doesn’t care at all about her appearance. Her mother was a super–model.

The moms cook up an idea that they’ll form a mother-daughter book club, and their first book will be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

None of the daughters wants to participate. Some of them clash with each other, some clash with their moms. But perhaps they can learn a thing or two from Louisa.

I don’t read many books for this age range, but a friend recommended this to me. I loved the tie-in with Louisa and Litttle Women. The girls even visit Orchard House in Concord, where Louisa lived and wrote Little Women. I also enjoyed how the girls learned and grew over the course of the book. Even the moms learned that they can’t make their daughters fit into their own “castles in the air” dreams.

The chapters all begin with a quote from Little Women and vary between the different girls’ points of view. At the end is a discussion guide, recipes, charts for planning goals, and information about starting a book club.

The only thing I didn’t like was the treatment of Mrs. Chadwick, the head “mean girl’s” mom and villain of the piece. Mrs. Chadwick seems fair game for names and derogatory comments about her anatomy from the parents as well as the girls. In one scene near the end, the girls and their moms turn the tables on Mrs. Chadwick and her daughter with some mean girls’ (and women’s) tricks of their own. I suppose, in a literary sense, this was their comeuppance. But I wish the moms had been better examples in this.

But other than that, this was an enjoyable book in many ways. It’s the first in a series of seven, each one built around a classic book. I like the idea and the characters, so I may try some of the other stories.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

The Little Women Treasury

The Little Women Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson is aptly named: it’s a treasure trove for Little Women fans.

The authors give an abbreviated history of author Louisa May Alcott’s life and share pictures of her and her family. Another chapter gives a brief description of each of the four March sisters, an illustrated family tree, and a brief overview of their lives as traced through the books about them: Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys.

Other chapters include details about Orchard House, the Alcott family home (they only lived there for nineteen years, but that’s where Louisa wrote Little Women); details of the March family life; a time line of world history dovetailed with incidents in the Little Women books and sequels; recipes, some from the book and some common to the era (I was glad to learn what blancmange was); activities from the books that readers can try (how to make a “work basket,” “mark” handkerchiefs like Beth, make a mailbox, etc.); fashions of the era; and gardening and floral crafts from the era, with a mention of each of the March girls’ garden plots.

The illustrations and embellishments are lovely and in keeping with the era. I thoroughly enjoyed this treasury.

LMA-button

Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge every June to encourage reading or listening to books by or about Louisa or about her family. I’m thankful she let me know about this book!

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved and Booknificent)