“Everything old is new again,” so they say—a trend that I think is true of books, too, no doubt helped along by all the recent reboots, remakes, and reimaginings of old stories for new audiences at the movies. I am so excited for this coming Christmas release of a new film adaptation of Little Women, and I’ve been revisiting all the old versions that I love so well; the 1994 movie, the series that aired on PBS last year, and of course my old beloved paperback copy of the original book by Louisa May Alcott that I bought at the Scholastic Book Fair in elementary school. Sharing my favorite stories with readers is one the best parts of my job as a children’s librarian, but it can be tricky to find just the right young reader for a 400-plus page novel written in 1868! Since most of the kids I see are on the younger side anyway, I’ve started to be on the lookout for more picture books that capture slices of longer stories as an introduction to younger readers. It wasn’t until this year that I found a picture book Little Women story, and even better—one that takes place at Christmas! (I cannot resist a good Christmas picture book.)
A Little Women Christmas takes readers right to one of the happiest parts of the novel—the Christmas after Beth’s illness. Mr. March is still in a hospital in Washington, but Beth is well, Marmee is home, and everyone is in good holiday spirits. Laurie and Jo build a delightful snow maiden to present all of Beth’s gifts to her, and best of all, Mr. March surprises the family with his early return home. Author Heather Vogel Frederick pulls some text right from the novel, and does an admirable job at setting the scene with the relevant backstory for the family’s reunion to be meaningful and heartfelt. Even some bits of the original text that didn’t make the cut are recalled in Bagram Ibatoulline’s illustrations; the scene when Mr. March appears is pictured from an angle near the floor, which made me smile and think of Amy hugging her father’s boots. But my favorite of the illustrations are the exteriors of Orchard House. Lighted windows, blankets of snow outside, a wreath on the door—it looks so cozy and Christmas-y in all the best ways! (Ibatoulline’s work might look familiar to you if you’ve read Great Joy,by Kate DiCamillo, another favorite Christmas picture book.) Of course, thirty illustrated pages can’t capture all the richness, tears, and laughter of the original, but A Little Women Christmas still gave me the same glad feeling as my old Scholastic paperback does. If you’re looking to add a bit of a familiar story to your Christmas book pile, this one’s a good pick.