Amazing Kids! Magazine

Book Review of Little Men

By Alicia Xin, age 13, New York

 

Nearly everyone has heard of the classic Little Women. Yet its sequel, Little Men, remains relatively unknown. Little Men captures the essence of childhood, allowing the reader to think back to their childhood times. It helped me realize the good that lay in people’s hearts.

Little Men features a boarding school of about ten boys and two girls, run by the Bhaer family. Throughout the book, the kids went on all sorts of delightful, childishly naughty adventures. The children in Little Men are extremely kind to each other, and often take care of one another like siblings. They are proof of the natural integrity and graciousness of people.

Essentially, Little Men follows a twelve-year-old boy named Nat, whose mother died years ago. A couple months before, his father died too, and he was left with nothing, no home or money. His father’s friend, who was supposed to take care of him, abandoned him. Nat was found on the street by a close friend of the Bhaers, and he was then transferred to the boarding school. At the school, his mind is nourished, and his heart healed. He experiences what it is like to have a family, be part of a community, and be a child again.

As I was reading this, I compared Nat to Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Oliver was also an orphan, but was fed very little as a child in a workhouse. Oliver is then thrown in jail for asking for more gruel to eat, and sold off as an apprentice to a cruel master. Nat’s story showed me that there was more kindness in store for orphans in this world than the suffering Oliver Twist had to endure.

The boarding school is everything a child could want–big banisters to slide down, a stream to fish in, gingerbread to eat, and a cranky cook to prank. With the cultivation of the kind-hearted teachers, the children are loving as well, and they often do acts of kindness for each other that we see less of today. They lived life well out of the way of wrongdoings and evil, innocent and harmless as puppies, each looking out for others.

In the school, every niche of every child’s potential is brought out. For example, one of the two girls in the school, Daisy, loved to cook. Unfortunately, she was much too young and small to be helping the cook in the big kitchen. So Mrs. Bhaer bought a small stove and oven, complete with a sink, and installed them in a room. There, every couple of days, she gave Daisy instructions on how to bake various things. Daisy quite became obsessed with making cakes and pies, and Mrs. Bhaer came up with a reward system for the children at the school. If the children behaved themselves, they were rewarded with the pies and cakes Daisy loved making.

Little Men is one of those books without particular plot. Each chapter takes the reader through another adventure, another story about the children at the school. Each time I reread this book, it still makes me feel comforted inside, as I relive these adventures, one by one. Sometimes, before I go to sleep, I put myself in a calming fantasy for a good end to the day. Often, I dreamed traveling to the school of Little Men and enjoyed my paradise.