Friday, October 30, 2009

"Jack and Jill" by Louisa May Alcott

"Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after."

So goes the old nursery rhyme and the main characters of "Jack and Jill" by Louisa May Alcott. The two children, friends in a small town, start the story sledding during Christmas vacation.

Unfortunately, they are a little too daring on the sled and each end up with an injury that keeps them out of school for months. The remainder of the story recounts their activities and the lessons they learn as they heal.

I found this book fascinating to read after I toured Miss Alcott's home, Orchard House. Three things in this story really struck me: the children learn moral lessons and improve their characters by the end of the story; the mothers decide to home school the children even when they are healed; the children write and perform plays and skits while making their own entertainment.

I've mentioned before that I prefer old children's books. The children in these books usually mature due to natural consequences of their "adventures." I SO prefer this to modern stories with whiny, smart-mouthed kids! Apparently Miss Alcott (and her father) also believed children should develop moral characters along with their academic work.

The knowledge that Miss Alcott's father was a teacher who promoted educational philosophies unheard of in his day helped me understand her motivation at having the mothers in this story choose to home school. She used the two mothers as a means of promoting some of her father's ideas. As a home school mom, I was especially intrigued by the description of their lessons which sound a lot like Charlotte Mason's philosophy!

I also learned at the Orchard House that Miss Alcott and her sisters often wrote and performed skits to entertain their parents and guests. It appears that Miss Alcott often drew on her own childhood for writing material. As I recall the sisters of Little Women also performed homemade plays.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fun little story. I'm sure boys and girls of all ages would like reading about the trials and successes of Jack and Jill as they heal from their injuries and the poor character qualities that caused them.

*** This post is included in a series on Louisa May Alcott.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I hadn't heard of this story so this was fun to read about.

It's been awhile since I've read about the Alcott philosophies but I do recall not agreeing with everything that they stood for. In fact, some of their philosophies shine through in Little Women and drive me absolutely crazy. (Ducking as flying objects come my way.) Alcott is not actually a favorite of mine at all. I rather can't stand Little Women but I LOVED Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom. She seems to be hit or miss with me.

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