Fifteen-year-old Louisa Alcott cares for her family while protecting a fugitive slave, coping with a budding romance and solving a puzzling murder.
Louisa’s philosopher father refuses to earn a living, forcing the Alcotts to live in perpetual penury despite mother Marmee’s endless economizing. In 1846, Marmee temporarily leaves her family in Concord to work in New Hampshire. A hot-tempered, strong-willed “force to be reckoned with,” Louisa would rather be scribbling stories, but Marmee relies on her to keep house for her father and sisters as well as a runaway slave the Alcotts are hiding. When a slave catcher named Finch discovers the Alcotts are ardent abolitionists, he stalks and threatens Louisa. Her distant cousin Fred arrives for a visit with romantic intentions, further complicating Louisa’s life. After Finch is murdered and her father implicated, Louisa’s determined to find the real murderer. Artfully integrated quotes from Little Women and biographical facts transform this fictitious plot into a tantalizing glimpse of the real Louisa May Alcott’s life, including her complex family relationships, unconventional convictions, and famous neighbors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. A summary of this period in Alcott’s life separates fact from fiction.
An intriguing introduction to young Louisa May Alcott as a spunky heroine. (author’s note, further reading) (Historical fiction. 12-18)