Monday, March 28, 2011

Module 2-Little Women and The Story of Ferdinand

Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is set in the late 1800s and tells the story of 4 sisters, Amy, Margaret, Jo and Elizabeth. The girls, ranging in age from 12 to 16, spend the span of the story learning to be good, respectable girls and learning morality and kindness through the example of their mother, Marmee. They experience love, loss and sacrifice as they grow in the book. We see the girls endure their hardship of having a father away at war and having little extravagance in their lives. For example, the girls share gloves to go to a party and one of the sisters, despite their social standing, works as a governess to help with the family funding. The girls help the less fortunate when they can and eventually the traveling to help sick families causes Beth to get sick. The family nurses her back to health, but poor Beth is weakened from the illness.

While we are supposed to read a book we aren't familiar with, I could not remember much about Little Women, even though I read it when I was in junior high. Having said that, I'm not sure how I read it when I was in school. I did not enjoy it and had to make myself get through it. It has its place in classic literature and if I knew a patron that was interested in reading classic literature. The language is achievable for students in 6th or 7th grade and up and I think that the material may be more interesting to them since they may be interested in historical life styles and problems that girls in a different century may have experienced. It is interesting to me, speaking of past problems, that the oldest sister, Margaret, faces engagement in her teens when in the present day people are getting married and starting families so much later.

School Library Journal
Little Women (unabr.). 14 CDs. 17:30 hrs.Tantor Media. 2008. ISBN 978-1-4001-0860-2. $35.99.
Gr 5 Up-Louisa MayAlcott's 19th century classic is the story of the March sisters—Meg, Jo, Aniy, and Beth—who live with their beloved Marmee, while their father is away serving as a chaplain during the Civil War. They must make many sacrifices during this time, but they learn that happiness is not dependent on riches, and trouble doesn't last forever. Rebecca Burns's homey, perfectly modulated voice easily moves from one character to another, and her narration for the male characters is credible. The CDs include tracking every three minutes. The companion ebook features automatic start-up, keyword searching, PDF printable format, table of contents, and
index. A great choice for classes studying New England family life during the Civil War period.

Jandy's Books
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March live in New England with their mother while their father has gone to fight in the American War Between the States. Once their family had been well-to-do but their circumstances had reversed. While the March family doesn't have monetary riches, they have love and family riches. Meg and Jo have jobs, Beth stays home with Marmee, and Amy goes to school.

Jo is the adventurous sister, the one who acted like a boy. She didn't often act like a lady like her sisters would. Jo is the one who befriended the lonely boy next door, Theodore Laurence. Soon Laurie is involved in many of the girls' adventures. As the five grow up, they enjoy many activities that grew from and strengthened their imaginations.

In time Mr. March returns home and the girls grow. They move from girlhood to womanhood, with the romances and businesses involved with that activity. Beth, the favorite of all the family, suffers from a life-threatening disease. Although she recovers, she never regains her full strength. Jo's untempered words get her in trouble more than once. Meg, then later Amy, meet the men who become the loves of their lives. Beth continues to comfort the March family. Laurie falls in love with Jo and is rejected - she knows they are better in a brother/siser relationship rather than husband and wife. Given time, a wise grandfather, and the right woman, Laurie recovers from Jo and discovers a new love. Jo continues to write, trying to make a small amount of money with her stories. She is certain she is to never marry, but even Jo finds someone who changes her mind.

This novel for girls is about 150 years old and is still charming to a young girl's heart. The March girls excite the imagination of the young reader. Miss Alcott brings the girls and her time period to life through a loving haze. Bad things happen in the book - tears are inevitable - yet overall this is a joyful book, full of hope.

In Class
This book could be used with students as an introduction to classic literature. Many students are daunted by the language and heft of classic literature, but with the content and language of Little Women, it would be a great starting point with students. It would be really interesting to read and have students write a modern day version of Little Women that parallels the classic version.

The Story of Ferdinand
Munro Leaf

In The Story of Ferdinand, we meet a peaceful young bull that has no desire to fight in the arena. Ferdinand only wants to sit in the field and enjoy the flowers and sunshine. A Bull Fighter comes to town and wants to fight the most fearsome bull, Ferdinand. Ferdinand doesn't respond to his advances. The pen and ink drawings are simple and really emphasize the peaceful feeling that goes along with the story.

As a child, one of my favorite movies to watch at Grandma's was the video of the old Disney short movies. My absolute favorite movie short was "Ferdinand the Bull", and when I found out it was originally an award winning book, I was very excited! "The Story of Ferdinand" is beautifully illustrated and Leaf and Lawson used the space on the page so well to illustrate the gentle nature of Ferdinand and eventually his exciting adventure in the bull fighting arena.

In Class
This story would be great to use in an Art class with students that are learning to use positive and negative space and learning about focal points. They could use this story of a great example of how to use only black ink to clearly get the point of the images across. Additionally, this would be good to use in a history or geography class with student that are learning about the history of spain or mexico and the tradition of bull fighting.

Eye Level Books
Ferdinand is a mild-mannered Spanish bull who (unlike his peers) has no aspirations to be chosen for a big bullfight in Madrid. Instead, “he like[s] to sit just quietly and smell the flowers.” But one day, when five men come to his pasture to choose a bull for the bullfight, Ferdinand sits on a bee, provoking him to act so crazy that the men choose him for the next bullfight. When he arrives in the arena, he has to decide whether he will give in to the pressure to perform.
The story is rendered in charming ink drawings and is exceptionally well written. The author makes gentle fun of the strutting bravado displayed by of the bullfight’s participants, while Ferdinand’s gentle response displays a unique kind of courage. Some parents will see this story as a treatise against the violence and cruelty of bullfights, while others will view it as an example of someone being true to himself. However you interpret it, this is an undeniably hilarious story that has been loved by children since its first publication in 1936.
It is fairly accessible to older toddlers and will also be enjoyed by early readers. Since its original printing, a color version has become available, but some of the pictures are missing, and the blotchy quality obscures the detail in the ink drawings, so I prefer the black-and-white version.

Works Cited
Miller, K. (2009). Little Women. School Library Journal, 55(2), 57-58. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Unknown, J. (2005, October 26). Little Women. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from Jandy's books:
Alcot, L. M. (2009). Little Women. USA: Oxford University Press.
Gonzalez, S. (2010, June 13). The Story of Ferdinand. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from Eye Level Books:
Leaf, M. (1936). The Story of Ferdinand. New York: Puffin.

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