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Overview

Louisa May Alcott's beloved children's novel Little Women is one of the classics of American literature. The novel follows the lives of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and details their passage from childhood to womanhood during the years of the American Civil War. The story was loosely based on Alcott and her sisters' own experiences of growing up in Concord, Massachusetts. The book became an immediate roaring success when it was published on September 30, 1868: the first 2,000 copies sold out at once and it has never been out of print since.

This 150th-anniversary facsimile edition faithfully reproduces an abridged version of the book published in 1910. Beautifully produced as a hardback printed on high-quality paper, this perfect gift for young girls presents the story in an easy-to-read format, with color illustrations by the Australian artist Norman Little.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780792743378
Publisher: AudioGO
Publication date: 01/28/2001
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)
Age Range: 9 - 14 Years

About the Author

Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888) published her first book, Flower Fables, at age twenty-two. She went on to write more than thirty books, poems, and short story collections, working as a teacher, seamstress, governess, or household servant at times to help make ends meet. Little Women, which she wrote at age thirty-five, became an overnight success and solidified her as a beloved author read by millions the across the globe.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

PLAYING PILGRIMS

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

"We've got Father and Mother and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, "We haven't got Father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was.

Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, "You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't." And Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.

"But I don't think the little we should spend would do any good. We've each got a dollar, and the army wouldn't be much helped by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from Mother or you, but I do want to buy Undine and Sintram for myself. I've wanted it so long," said Jo, who was a bookworm.

"I planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth brush and kettle holder.

"I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils. I really need them," said Amy decidedly.

"Mother didn't say anything about our money, and she won't wish us to give up everything. Let's each buy what we want, and have a little fun. I'm sure we work hard enough to earn it," cried Jo, examining the heels of her shoes in a gentlemanly manner.

"I know I do — teaching those tiresome children nearly all day, when I'm longing to enjoy myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone again.

"You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. "How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you're ready to fly out of the window or cry?"

"It's naughty to fret, but I do think washing dishes and keeping things tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me cross, and my hands get so stiff, I can't practice well at all." And Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh that any one could hear that time.

"I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy, "for you don't have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you don't know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your father if he isn't rich, and insult you when your nose isn't nice."

"If you mean libel, I'd say so, and not talk about labels, as if Papa was a pickle bottle," advised Jo, laughing.

"I know what I mean, and you needn't be statirical about it. It's proper to use good words, and improve your vocabilary," returned Amy, with dignity.

"Don't peck at one another, children. Don't you wish we had the money Papa lost when we were little, Jo? Dear me! how happy and good we'd be, if we had no worries!" said Meg, who could remember better times.

"You said the other day you thought we were a deal happier than the King children, for they were fighting and fretting all the time, in spite of their money."

"So I did, Beth. Well, I think we are; for, though we do have to work, we make fun for ourselves, and are a pretty jolly set, as Jo would say."

"Jo does use such slang words!" observed Amy, with a reproving look at the long figure stretched on the rug. Jo immediately sat up, put her hands in her pockets, and began to whistle.

"Don't, Jo, it's so boyish!"

"That's why I do it."

"I detest rude, unladylike girls!"

"I hate affected, niminy-piminy chits!"

"'Birds in their little nests agree,'" sang Beth, the peacemaker, with such a funny face that both sharp voices softened to a laugh, and the "pecking" ended for that time.

"Really, girls, you are both to blame," said Meg, beginning to lecture in her elder-sisterly fashion. "You are old enough to leave off boyish tricks, and to behave better, Josephine. It didn't matter so much when you were a little girl; but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should remember that you are a young lady."

"I'm not! And if turning up my hair makes me one, I'll wear it in two tails till I'm twenty," cried Jo, pulling off her net, and shaking down a chestnut mane. "I hate to think I've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a China aster! It's bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boys' games and work and manners! I can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy; and it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with Papa, and I can only stay at home and knit, like a poky old woman!" And Jo shook the blue army sock till the needles rattled like castanets, and her ball bounded across the room.

"Poor Jo! It's too bad, but it can't be helped. So you must try to be contented with making your name boyish, and playing brother to us girls," said Beth, stroking the rough head at her knee with a hand that all the dishwashing and dusting in the world could not make ungentle in its touch.

"As for you, Amy," continued Meg, "you are altogether too particular and prim. Your airs are funny now, but you'll grow up an affected little goose, if you don't take care. I like your nice manners and refined ways of speaking, when you don't try to be elegant. But your absurd words are as bad as Jo's slang."

"If Jo is a tomboy and Amy a goose, what am I, please?" asked Beth, ready to share the lecture.

"You're a dear, and nothing else," answered Meg warmly; and no one contradicted her, for the "Mouse" was the pet of the family.

As young readers like to know "how people look," we will take this moment to give them a little sketch of the four sisters, who sat knitting away in the twilight, while the December snow fell quietly without, and the fire crackled cheerfully within. It was a comfortable old room, though the carpet was faded and the furniture very plain; for a good picture or two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses, chrysanthemums and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a pleasant atmosphere of home peace pervaded it.

Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, being plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft, brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain.

Fifteen-year-old Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt, for she never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs, which were very much in her way. She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and sharp, gray eyes, which appeared to see everything, and were by turns fierce, funny, or thoughtful. Her long, thick hair was her one beauty, but it was usually bundled into a net, to be out of her way. Round shoulders had Jo, big hands and feet, a flyaway look to her clothes, and the uncomfortable appearance of a girl who was rapidly shooting up into a woman and didn't like it. Elizabeth — or Beth, as everyone called her — was a rosy, smooth-haired, bright-eyed girl of thirteen, with a shy manner, a timid voice, and a peaceful expression which was seldom disturbed. Her father called her "Little Tranquillity," and the name suited her excellently, for she seemed to live in a happy world of her own, only venturing out to meet the few whom she trusted and loved. Amy, though the youngest, was a most important person — in her own opinion at least. A regular snow maiden, with blue eyes, and yellow hair curling on her shoulders, pale and slender, and always carrying herself like a young lady mindful of her manners. What the characters of the four sisters were we will leave to be found out.

The clock struck six and, having swept up the hearth, Beth put a pair of slippers down to warm. Somehow the sight of the old shoes had a good effect upon the girls, for Mother was coming, and everyone brightened to welcome her. Meg stopped lecturing, and lighted the lamp, Amy got out of the easy chair without being asked, and Jo forgot how tired she was as she sat up to hold the slippers nearer to the blaze.

"They are quite worn out. Marmee must have a new pair."

"I thought I'd get her some with my dollar," said Beth.

"No, I shall!" cried Amy.

"I'm the oldest," began Meg, but Jo cut in with a decided —

"I'm the man of the family now Papa is away, and I shall provide the slippers, for he told me to take special care of Mother while he was gone."

"I'll tell you what we'll do," said Beth, "let's each get her something for Christmas, and not get anything for ourselves."

"That's like you, dear! What will we get?" exclaimed Jo.

Everyone thought soberly for a minute, then Meg announced, as if the idea was suggested by the sight of her own pretty hands, "I shall give her a nice pair of gloves."

"Army shoes, best to be had," cried Jo.

"Some handkerchiefs, all hemmed," said Beth.

"I'll get a little bottle of cologne. She likes it, and it won't cost much, so I'll have some left to buy my pencils," added Amy.

"How will we give the things?" asked Meg.

"Put them on the table, and bring her in and see her open the bundles. Don't you remember how we used to do on our birthdays?" answered Jo.

"I used to be so frightened when it was my turn to sit in the big chair with the crown on, and see you all come marching round to give the presents, with a kiss. I liked the things and the kisses, but it was dreadful to have you sit looking at me while I opened the bundles," said Beth, who was toasting her face and the bread for tea at the same time.

"Let Marmee think we are getting things for ourselves, and then surprise her. We must go shopping tomorrow afternoon, Meg. There is so much to do about the play for Christmas night," said Jo, marching up and down, with her hands behind her back and her nose in the air.

"I don't mean to act any more after this time. I'm getting too old for such things," observed Meg, who was as much a child as ever about "dressing-up" frolics.

"You won't stop, I know, as long as you can trail round in a white gown with your hair down, and wear gold-paper jewelry. You are the best actress we've got, and there'll be an end of everything if you quit the boards," said Jo. "We ought to rehearse tonight. Come here, Amy, and do the fainting scene, for you are as stiff as a poker in that."

"I can't help it; I never saw anyone faint, and I don't choose to make myself all black and blue, tumbling flat as you do. If I can go down easily, I'll drop; if I can't, I shall fall into a chair and be graceful.

I don't care if Hugo does come at me with a pistol," returned Amy, who was not gifted with dramatic power, but was chosen because she was small enough to be borne out shrieking by the villain of the piece.

"Do it this way: clasp your hands so, and stagger across the room, crying frantically, 'Roderigo! save me! save me!'" and away went Jo, with a melodramatic scream which was truly thrilling.

Amy followed, but she poked her hands out stiffly before her, and jerked herself along as if she went by machinery, and her "Ow!" was more suggestive of pins being run into her than of fear and anguish. Jo gave a despairing groan, and Meg laughed outright, while Beth let her bread burn as she watched the fun with interest.

"It's no use! Do the best you can when the time comes, and if the audience laughs, don't blame me. Come on, Meg."

Then things went smoothly, for Don Pedro defied the world in a speech of two pages without a single break; Hagar, the witch, chanted an awful incantation over her kettleful of simmering toads, with weird effect; Roderigo rent his chains asunder manfully, and Hugo died in agonies of remorse and arsenic, with a wild "Ha! ha!" "It's the best we've had yet," said Meg, as the dead villain sat up and rubbed his elbows.

"I don't see how you can write and act such splendid things, Jo. You're a regular Shakespeare!" exclaimed Beth, who firmly believed that her sisters were gifted with wonderful genius in all things.

"Not quite," replied Jo modestly. "I do think The Witch's Curse, an Operatic Tragedy is rather a nice thing, but I'd like to try Macbeth, if we only had a trapdoor for Banquo. I always wanted to do the killing part. 'Is that a dagger that I see before me?'" muttered Jo, rolling her eyes and clutching at the air, as she had seen a famous tragedian do.

"No, it's the toasting fork, with mother's shoe on it instead of the bread. Beth's stage-struck!" cried Meg, and the rehearsal ended in a general burst of laughter.

"Glad to find you so merry, my girls," said a cheery voice at the door, and actors and audience turned to welcome a tall, motherly lady with a "can-I-help-you" look about her which was truly delightful. She was not elegantly dressed, but a noble-looking woman, and the girls thought the gray cloak and unfashionable bonnet covered the most splendid mother in the world.

"Well, dearies, how have you got on today? There was so much to do, getting the boxes ready to go tomorrow, that I didn't come home to dinner. Has anyone called, Beth? How is your cold, Meg? Jo, you look tired to death. Come and kiss me, baby."

While making these maternal inquiries Mrs. March got her wet things off, her warm slippers on, and sitting down in the easy chair, drew Amy to her lap, preparing to enjoy the happiest hour of her busy day. The girls flew about, trying to make things comfortable, each in her own way. Meg arranged the tea table, Jo brought wood and set chairs, dropping, overturning, and clattering everything she touched, Beth trotted to and fro between parlor and kitchen, quiet and busy, while Amy gave directions to everyone, as she sat with her hands folded.

As they gathered about the table, Mrs. March said, with a particularly happy face, "I've got a treat for you after supper."

A quick, bright smile went round like a streak of sunshine.

Beth clapped her hands, regardless of the biscuit she held, and Jo tossed up her napkin, crying, "A letter! a letter! Three cheers for Father!"

"Yes, a nice long letter. He is well, and thinks he shall get through the cold season better than we feared. He sends all sorts of loving wishes for Christmas, and an especial message to you girls," said Mrs. March, patting her pocket as if she had got a treasure there.

"Hurry and get done! Don't stop to quirk your little finger and simper over your plate, Amy," cried Jo, choking in her tea and dropping her bread, butter side down, on the carpet in her haste to get at the treat.

Beth ate no more, but crept away to sit in her shadowy corner and brood over the delight to come, till the others were ready.

"I think it was so splendid in Father to go as a chaplain when he was too old to be drafted, and not strong enough for a soldier," said Meg warmly.

"Don't I wish I could go as a drummer, a vivan — what's its name? or a nurse, so I could be near him and help him," exclaimed Jo, with a groan.

"It must be very disagreeable to sleep in a tent, and eat all sorts of bad-tasting things, and drink out of a tin mug," sighed Amy.

"When will he come home, Marmee?" asked Beth, with a little quiver in her voice.

"Not for many months, dear, unless he is sick. He will stay and do his work faithfully as long as he can, and we won't ask for him back a minute sooner than he can be spared. Now come and hear the letter."

They all drew to the fire, Mother in the big chair with Beth at her feet, Meg and Amy perched on either arm of the chair, and Jo leaning on the back, where no one would see any sign of emotion if the letter should happen to be touching. Very few letters were written in those hard times that were not touching, especially those which fathers sent home. In this one little was said of the hardships endured, the dangers faced, or the homesickness conquered.

It was a cheerful, hopeful letter, full of lively descriptions of camp life, marches, and military news, and only at the end did the writer's heart overflow with fatherly love and longing for the little girls at home.

"Give them all my dear love and a kiss. Tell them I think of them by day, pray for them by night, and find my best comfort in their affection at all times. A year seems very long to wait before I see them, but remind them that while we wait we may all work, so that these hard days need not be wasted. I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Little Women"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Louisa May Alcott.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introductionvii
Suggestions for Further Readingxxix
A Note on the Textxxxi
Little Women
Prefacexxxv
Part I1
Part II236
Notes493

Reading Group Guide

1. In the first two chapters, the girls use John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress as a model for their own journey to becoming "little women." What was Alcott trying to say by using such a strongly philosophical piece of literature as the girls' model?

2. What purpose does Beth's death serve? Was Alcott simply making a sentimental novel even more so, or was this a play on morality and philosophy? Do you think Beth was intended to be a Christ figure?

3. Consider the fact that Beth will never reach sexual maturity or marry. What do you think this says about the institution of marriage and, more important, about womanhood?

4. Consider Jo's writing: While we are treated to citations from "The Pickwick Portfolio" and the family's letters to one another, we are never presented with an excerpt from Jo's many literary works, though the text tells us they are quite successful. Why is this?

5. Do you find it surprising that once Laurie is rejected by Jo, he falls in love with Amy? Do you feel his characterization is complete and he is acting within the "norm" of the personality Alcott has created for him, or does Alcott simply dispose of him once our heroine rejects him?

6. Some critics argue that the characters are masochistic. Meg is the perfect little wife, Amy is the social gold digger, and Beth is the eternally loving and patient woman. Do you believe these characterizations are masochistic? If so, do you think Alcott could have characterized them any other way while maintaining the realism of the society she lived in? And if this is true, what of Jo's character?

7. The last two chapters find Jo setting aside her budding literary career to run a school with her husband. Why do you think Alcott made her strongest feminine figure sacrifice her own life plans for her husband's?

8. Alcott was a student of transcendentalism. How and where does this philosophy affect Alcott's writing, plot, and characterization?

9. Do you believe this is a feminine or a feminist piece of work?

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"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."
— Louisa May Alcott (quote from Little Women

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Little Women 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 214 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good, classic novel. Never had to read it in school so decided to read it as an adult. Was pleasantly surprised. A little slow at some points but glad I read it since it is considered a classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved reading this book. Saw the movie years ago. Books are always better as you can get so caught up in the stories!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So romantic wonderfullly written
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A lovely and lively vignette of girls growing up. I don't know what else I can say about it. The story is so well known, all I can say is that I enjoyed it to it's last classic page.
jshillingford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Little Women is, at its heart, a wonderful story about family. It's also an example of historical fiction that is great for young adults and adults. This is one of those rare "classics" that I think actually deserves to be called such. It reaches across generations and times - just about anyone with siblings can identify with what these girls go through as a family. Moreover, many people can also identify with having too little money to get by at times, and what a struggle it is to make ends meet. These characters are so real, with such individual personalities, that they come alive off the page and suck you into their world. I read this as young girl, and again as a woman. It resonated with me both times. Highly recommended.
Callie1983 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my absolute fav classics... love this book
atimco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Little Women, that classic tale of four very different sisters growing up in Massachusetts during the Civil War, is well known for its warmth, humor, and moral lessons. Louisa May Alcott, the "Jo" of the story, describes the life of the March family with an eye for the funny side of every situation. Jo is the literary sister and more than a little tomboyish, while Meg, the oldest, is almost a woman and takes her responsibilities very seriously. Beth, next youngest after Jo, is shy and gentle, playing her piano and tending her dolls. Amy, the youngest, has the artistic temperament and is a bit vain, though still lovable in her own way. And then there's Marmee, the center of the March household and the standard for moral behavior in her daughters' lives. There isn't much of a plot, as each chapter tells of some memorable episode in their family history. I was struck this time by how similar my childhood was in some ways to that of the March girls. My siblings and I also "published" a newspaper of sorts and got up theatrical presentations for the delectation of our parents. We wrote stories, played with dolls, created elaborate make-believe games, and had a "post office" where treats were occasionally left. We read voraciously, were educated at home, never had much money, and learned early the strong work ethic that has been so valuable in adult life. I can even see some strong resemblances between Meg and myself (the oldest) and Jo and my next youngest sister, the undisputed tomboy of the family. We four sisters are as unique and distinct as the March girls. I guess happy childhoods share many of the same traits, regardless of how times change. Many readers object to Alcott's occasional preachiness. I actually don't mind moral lessons carefully woven into a story, and I can take a great deal of what others may term "preaching" without annoyance. But I object to Alcott's preachiness on a different score. She preaches what she knew, the doctrines of the Transcendental movement that was then popular in their family's social circle. And it's astonishing what they got wrong. On the surface it seems like good moral stuff, and perhaps it is, as far as it goes. But Christ is absent¿or if He is there, He's a friend and helper rather than a Savior. The slightest misdirection at the start will change the entire trajectory of a person's faith. It was almost sad to hear Alcott describing her and her family's struggles to be good, to subdue their sinful flesh and improve themselves by their own efforts and self discipline. They completely missed the point of grace; it isn't there to help us be good enough to be saved, but to save us completely, apart from any good we may do. There is freedom in that. An example of this is the ongoing metaphor from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, that of the burden that Christian carries to the Hill. There is no doubt that Bunyan intended Christian's burden to represent the burden of sin; it falls off when Christian beholds and believes in the Savior. But Alcott and her family apparently missed the entire point and interpreted Christian's burden as the general burdens of everyday life, our cares and responsibilities. Biblically astute Christians will see the problem at once: if our burden is our everyday life rather than our sin, that means we don't have a fatal problem that only Christ's sacrifice can alleviate. We are capable of perfecting ourselves. Another contentious point is how Jo rejects Laurie and instead marries Professor Bhaer, a much older German man. I have always been dissatisfied with that, as much as I respect an author's authority over her own characters (and in this case, her own life!). This time I really tried to listen with an open mind and Alcott does a fair job of convincing me that she really did make the right decision. But it's still hard to read about Laurie's rejection and later marriage with Amy. I have several of Alcott's "thrillers" that she disparages in this sto
theboylatham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago

Four out of ten. eBook.

The story of four sisters growing up and coming of age. It follows the girls from a young age into marriage and beyond. The first half of the book was reasonably entertaining but becomes dull and predictable. Obviously meant for young women and in the style of older books is slow moving and patronising at times.

 

SimoneA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am doubting about my rating of this book. On the one hand it is an entertaining classic. On the other hand it is a preachy, old fashioned book with annoyingly outdated ideas about women. For now I'll stick with just a fun read in between.
NicoleHC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's impossible to pinpoint the year I first read this. Probably the year I learned to read in sentences. Classic, indeed. A book I'd recommend to all little girls.
theageofsilt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book at "The Orchard House" in Concord, Massachusetts where Louisa May Alcott lived while she wrote "Little Women". I didn't enjoy this book as a girl, but I appreciate it more now. It was a pleasure to read about young women who are more interested in developing their character than their appearance. The writing style is lively enough to carry the reader through plotlines that are credible to the point of banal. It is also a wonderful depiction of daily life of its time. It is also a feminist novel -- the home is the core of a woman's responsibility, but the home is also seen as absolutely crucial for society. Oddly, I think the denigration of the role of women in the world belongs to a later era.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read. Ages 10 and up shoukd look into this book. This is a spoil-free page, and guys, no one dies. So, just read this GREAT American classic. p.s. don't let 643 pages scare you. It is soooooo worth it. : { )
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found out who died too. Im so angry at that guy/girl!!!!!!!!! Actually, im angry that they told you, I didnt read that review; i watched the movie. SPOILED!>:(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow i hate that guy or whoever did a spoiler alert ssssssssooooooo angry im on page thirty and i found out who died nice going:(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time loading and turning the pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was hard for me whe I was 9, but now that I am 11, this book is easy to understand. This book is a grat read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Little Women! (But I'm on page 375) I think I will give it 5 stars! I think people might like it.