Little Men focuses on Jo and Professor's Baehr's adult life with small children and a boarding school filled with young boys (and Nan and Daisey). In actuality the focus of the sequel to Little Women is more on the children raised by Jo and Fritz than Jo and Fritz (or any of the other family members for that matter). Aunt March left Plumfield to Jo, so Jo and Fritz open Plumfield as a boarding school for children whose families cannot afford to send them to the more expensive schools. The students are chosen carefully and many times come with emotional needs as well as educational.
All of the children have their own character/pesonality and more times than not a character flaw. These flaws are usually brought to the surface and mended by Jo and Fritz with the help of the other children. The children's antics are described in detail...fighting the squirrels to harvest nuts for the winter, gardening in their own little plots, their daily routines and chores and the evolution of their thriving personalities nurtured by a loving environment.
Not only are the children provided with everything they need, but they are also expected to pull their own weight, taking responsibility for the family, making it in a sense a true family, something many of the children have never known.
Jo and Fritz have two children of their own, Rob and little Teddy; Demi and Daisey are Meg and John Brooke's twins and Laurie and Amy have one little girl, "The Princess," who only visits Plumfield from time to time. Laurie is a major benefactor of the school and is still in awe of his "sister" Jo.
While Little Men follows Little Women naturally and is written with the same Louisa May Alcott style of writing, language etc. I didn't feel as if I was as absorbed by this story as I was with Little Women. While I enjoyed seeing into the lives of the children, I longed for more of an in depth look into the adult lives of Fritz and Jo, Laurie and Amy, and Meg and John Brooke. There are a few places in the novel where LMA gives a "peek" at best...for example, the children witness Jo and Fritz's warm and tender hugs, conversations with one another on a regular basis; but while Laurie visits with his and Amy's little girl a couple of times during the novel, Amy is practically left out of this story altogether?
Meg and John Brooke's children have more of a direct role in Little Men...with Demi moving into the school first and Daisey following somewhat later. I was a little taken aback by Meg and John Brooke letting their young children leave their home and live with their aunt at school...but then I remembered that I was looking at this particular part of the novel through my contemporary eyes and from my own personal mother's perspective. I'm no colonial American literature scholar so I don't know if this was a common practice of the time?
I did sometimes feel that Little Men was a little sugary sweet at times...Jo especially seemed a little "too good to be true" at first...until little Teddy gets lost in the woods. All sense of rational thought leaves her then and the old Jo, fueled by emotion and reaction, takes over for a brief but welcome time.
The novel reads more like a journal or set of short stories about life at Plumfield than one sweeping connected story, some segments I definitely liked better than others.
Jo's Boys is up next...and is already uploaded to my Kindle :)