Published in 1868, Little Women was a classic from the first. Girls adored it which lead to the publication of a second volume in 1869 (Originally tittled Good Wives, it has since been incorporated into Little Women as Part II.) Little Women is a lengthy novel . I first read it when I was 12. Part I in my dogeared and bedraggled copy has 217 pages.
The Little Women from Sterling's Classic Starts series retells Part I of Little Women in 144 pages. 23 chapters are reduced to 17. The language e is updated and simplified. This is a story for younger readers (i.e., ages 7 and up)
What I thought: Though I am a librarian, I don't oppose abridged classics for children. I received my first taste of Little Women when I received the Great Illustrated Classics version for my ninth birthday. I was fascinated with the story of the March sisters. Three years later, I read the original. I have re-read Little Women every year since.
The advantage of abridged classics is that they can introduce younger readers to books that are above their reading level. The original Little Women, as lovely as it is, is lengthy with old-fashioned language. I can't see and eight- or nine-year-old reading it with much enjoyment.
But with the Classic Starts series, young readers can experience the essence of the original story. The pickled limes, Jo's burnt frocks. and Laurie's antics are all there. My only complaint (and bear in mind that I am a veteran reader of Little Women) is that some of the more memorable phrases are changed. For example, "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents" becomes "Christmas won't be the same without presents" (1). Overall, I am prepared to like the Classic Starts series. I think they accomplish their goal--introducing younger readers to classic books.
(Illus. Lucy Corvino. New York: Sterling, 2005)