|Little Women - Louisa May Alcott|
Before I launch into this post I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who left comments on the last one, and Earthen Magic a special thank for going back to all the associated links and leaving such magical messages. While I'm in 'thank you mode' I'd also like to tell Yurika from Japan how thrilled I was to get the comments you left on earlier posts - I tried to reciprocate on your blog but couldn't find a place to leave a message. Everyone else - I won't mention you all by name but you know your friendship means a lot to me.
I always feel a bit self conscious when I put up a post like the last one - on this occasion I nearly took it back down again and would have done so but for receiving the responses I got to it. Sometimes I do feel I must be delusional and a bit of an eejit for thinking I can write a book - especially when I read what I've produced in the cold light of day!
Now on to this post. It was inspired by one Barbara from the ever delightful March House Books Blog featured recently. You can see Barbara's post here. Her edition has glorious illustrations by the sublime Rene Cloke - they really are superb. I'm not the first to respond to Barbara's post - another good blog friend Darlene from Darlene's Foster's Blog feaured this post which includes a photograph of Louisa May Alcott
Both of these posts prompted me to get out my version of the story and page through it again. The book I have was published by the Whitman Publishing Company (Wisconsin) in 1955. It is a 'modern abridged version' but still very wordy for a child running to 283 pages.
I LOVED this book when I was very young - maybe a little bit surprising as I tended to be drawn to bright and shiny things - large format books with vibrant illustrations in full colour. This edition is the size of a medium hardback novel and includes pen and ink illustrations by Jill Elgin with muted olive green washes of colour.
I think what makes these illustrations so successful is how wonderfully they portray both the characters and events of the book. And there are a lot of them. I've only included a handful here but this edition is packed full of them.
These two were amongst my favourites. I adored the picture of Meg in her unaccustomed finery. I'd still like to do something with this dress one day - it would be perfect for a paper doll! I read through this part of the story again and was startled to realise how young these characters were. Meg is 17 in this scene and Laurie is even younger!
More illustrations follow. This story was already 100 years old when I first read it - I think why it endures so well is how universal and timeless it is (a bit like Jane Austen) - and how 'real' and sympathetic the characters are. (I know as Barbara said you either love it or hate it - as childhood memories go it is so entrenched in my psyche I can't but love it.)
This one of Meg's wedding is one I've always wanted to incorporate into something. It has a lovely graphic quality with its circular design and a great sense of movement.
The cover is the only illustration in colour - I must say I was always intrigued by this hat!
Each chapter is prefaced by a small illustration - a handful of these are repeated throughout the book. There are a few others beside those I'm showing here - the house, a horse and carriage for Laurie and the portraits of the four girls shown on the frontispiece.
Many chapters are introduced with a montage representing one of the girls. At some point I went through these and identified them all - writing the appropriate initial (in red ink I'm afraid!) underneath each.
Whitman produced two different series of books at this time - Whitman Classics (of which this is one) and Whitman Adventure and Mystery Books. Besides Little Women I also owned their Fifty Famous Fairy Tales. I no longer have this book and would love to see it again. I've just discovered there is one on offer at Amazon - now should I or shouldn't I ? .... hmmm ......