Under the Lilacs (by Louisa May Alcott)

After my lengthy marathon reading 'Drums of Autumn', I decided to pick up something light and easy. I opted for Louisa M Alcott's 'Under the Lilacs'. Of course this author is best known for her series starting with 'Little Women', but I enjoy her other children's and teenage work just as much. This particular one is intended for children; it features two sisters called Bab and Betty, who are 10 and 9 respectively, and a boy called Ben who is 12 and who has run away from a circus, looking for his father. The girls' mother takes him in and he finds work locally, gradually making friends and settling down to get an education.

It's old-fashioned, of course, and based in America, but the language is simple enough that I would expect many girls of around 8 or 9 to enjoy it, and perhaps some boys too since Ben is actually the hero of the book. There are a few places where the author makes comments, as tended to happen in previous centuries, and an over-emphasis on formal education and learning poetry or facts by heart, which I might have found annoying a few years ago. But on the whole it's a delightful story, quick to read with a couple of very moving moments that brought tears to my eyes, even though I'd read the book some years previously.

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