If Little Men weren't an entertaining novel, it could serve as a timeless reminder of how adults can help children direct their energies in helpful ways and develop better habits. The philosophy is to provide lots of love, understanding, forgiveness, slack and carefully chosen incentives and guidance while encouraging friendships among youngsters who will balance one another out if they spend time together. You'll recognize lots of Marmee's loving approach in Jo's more rough and tumble perspective. It's a nice combination.
For those who loved the child-centered world of Little Women, you'll be entranced by what Jo does to educate and raise her own boys, her nephew and niece, a troublesome neighbor girl, male boarders and some unfortunate orphans.
Much of the novel focuses on the character development of two poor orphans, Nat and Dan, who find Jo's Plumfield (which she inherited near the end of Little Women) to be an unfamiliar paradise of a home and school that requires some adjusting to.
Although the title is Little Men, there's plenty of focus on Daisy, twin sister to Demi, Nan, an independent girl with lots of energy, and Bess, Amy and Laurie's daughter. There are pretend balls, teas, and dramatic performances that echo those in Little Women.
But the male slant that is subdued in Little Women bursts forth in Little Men as the book recounts pranks, brawls, collections of disgusting items, pillow fights, taming a colt and doing heavy chores.
Like Little Women, the chapters are really short stories involving the same characters as they progress from month to month.
If you haven't read Little Women, by all means start there. An important part of the fun of Little Men is finding out what happened next to Meg, Jo, Amy and Laurie.