From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up-- Johnston combines recent scholarship and her own reading and experience to present a fresh look at the author of the beloved Little Women . The highlights of Alcott's life are familiar. One of several daughters born to an impoverished educational visionary, she turned her hand to sewing, teaching, nursing, and finally writing to help support her struggling family. Johnston attempts to round out this picture, to balance the well-known influence Bronson Alcott had on his daughter with that of her mother and her own development as a creative individual. In so doing she presents Alcott as a richer, more complex figure, whose relevance to readers is undiminished by the passage of time. Instead of an old-fashioned sentimentalist, Alcott comes across as a woman of talent, strength, passion, and perserverance. The author sets her agenda in an introductory note, and then goes on to support her text with a wealth of primary and secondary sources, one as recent as 1991. The bibliography is annotated, although, except for Meigs's classic Invincible Louisa (Scholastic, 1988), the citations are all of adult titles. Fans of Little Women will need little urging to read this biography, and even less to move on from it to other Alcott titles. Solidly researched, well written, respectful of readers, this will be a major addition to biography shelves. --Barbara Hutcheson, Greater Victoria Public Library, B.C., Canada
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
An author of over 60 YA novels brings fine narrative skill to a sympathetic portrait of one of her greatest predecessors. Much has been added to the record since the 1933 publication of Meigs's well-researched but traditional biography, the Newbery-winning Invincible Louisa. Alcott's letters and journals, several collections of the ``thrillers'' that kept the family pot boiling, and a novel whose genesis was ruefully described in Little Women have been recently published; scholarly studies point out the extent to which the author's autobiographical fiction was an unrealistic reformulation of a difficult life and of a gifted but impossible family (especially her improvident philosopher father). Johnston, bless her, succeeds in reconciling the loving family in Little Women with the facts of Alcott's rich but extraordinarily demanding life. She posits that, though Bronson Alcott was indeed a remarkably innovative educator as well as an eminent scholar, it was her mother, Abba May Alcott, who most profoundly influenced Louisa. Pioneer social worker and sometimes, of necessity, family breadwinner, she was, like Louisa, an outstandingly courageous, independent, yet nurturing woman, deeply loved though not so unrealistically patient as ``Marmee.'' Good as it was, Meigs's book seemed colorless compared to Alcott's fiction. Johnston--by depicting the real life in all its complexity while showing the many links with the fiction--not only enriches understanding of Alcott's books but also paints a fascinating picture of her life. A must. Bibliography; photos and index not seen. (Biography. 12+) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.