Overview

We are all going to be made perfect . . .

In 1843, with all their possessions loaded onto a single wagon, ten-year-old Louisa May Alcott and her family bravely set out into the wilderness to make a new home for themselves on a farm called Fruitlands. Louisa's father has a dream of living a perfect, simple life. It won't be easy, but the family has vowed to uphold his high ideals.

In her diary -- one she shares with her parents -- Louisa records...

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Fruitlands

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Overview

We are all going to be made perfect . . .

In 1843, with all their possessions loaded onto a single wagon, ten-year-old Louisa May Alcott and her family bravely set out into the wilderness to make a new home for themselves on a farm called Fruitlands. Louisa's father has a dream of living a perfect, simple life. It won't be easy, but the family has vowed to uphold his high ideals.

In her diary -- one she shares with her parents -- Louisa records her efforts to become the girl her parents would like her to be. But in another, secret diary, she reveals the hardships of this new life, and pours out her real hopes and worries. Can Louisa live up to her father's expectations? Or will trying to be perfect tear the family apart?

Fictional diary entries recount the true-life efforts of Louisa May Alcott's family to establish a utopian community known as Fruitlands in Massachusetts in 1843.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Louisa May Alcott fans will relish this fictionalized account of the Alcotts' stay at Fruitlands, a commune where Louisa's transcendentalist father and his friend, Mr. Lane, conducted their famous not-so-successful experiment in forming a perfect community. Whelan (Angel on the Square; Homeless Bird) structures the novel as two sets of journal entries based on Alcott's own childhood writings: "In the first diary there will be Louy, who will try to be just what Mother and Father would wish. In the second diary there will be Louisa, just as she is," a sentiment that will vindicate many an aspiring journal-keeper. The first-person narratives vividly capture Louisa's wit, feisty spirit and keen powers of observation. The entries intended to be shared with Mother and Father give an insightful overview of the commune, where naturalists gather to better themselves. They also reveal Louisa's ongoing struggle to meet the commune leaders' lofty expectations by denying herself small pleasures: "We are not to eat butter or rob hens of their eggs. I will do all that I can to curb my coarse appetites." The private pages, penned in the "leafy tent" of a willow tree, offer a more in-depth study of commune members' quirks and foibles, as well as a hilarious critique of others' success or failure in practicing what they preach. ("Mr. Lane is to teach us all how we are to improve ourselves. I watched him stride along behind the wagon, his head up, his chin out, proud of walking while others rode. He did not look like a man who thought he needed improvement"). This meticulously researched book reveals Whelan's depth of understanding and respect for Louisa May Alcott's outlook on life and relationships with others. A marvelous companion for the 19th-century author's semi-autobiographical Little Women. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Readers meet 10-year-old Louisa May Alcott as she and her family leave Concord, MA, in 1843 to live at Fruitlands, a utopian community envisioned by her philosopher father. The story is told through two sets of journal entries. In one, Louy writes what her parents would want to read, knowing that they may actually look at her journal. The second is a secret diary, "and this one shall be my honest thoughts." This technique works well. Readers will understand what the community was hoping to accomplish and sense the inequity and frustrations of the austere life at Fruitlands. This same story was told in Jeannine Atkins's Becoming Little Women (Putnam, 2001) with more details about the year spent at Fruitlands, and with more character development. However, using journal entries based on Alcott's original diaries allows children to see into a strange and interesting experience that helped develop the character of one of America's most loved authors. While not as rich as Atkins's book, Fruitlands does tell the story well.-JoAnn Jonas, Chula Vista Public Library, San Diego, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Famous for the depiction of her family in Little Women, Louisa May Alcott had many more adventures only hinted at in her surviving childhood diaries. Based on some scant passages referring to her father’s dreams of living a pure and simple life, this tale is a fictional account of what life might have been like on the communal farm, Fruitlands. With friends like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Louisa’s life is never boring, but under her father’s ever-watchful eye, she must always be careful of her words and actions. Forced to go against her inquisitive nature, Louisa has an alternate, good persona, Louy. She decides, "In the first diary there will be Louy, who will try to be just what Mother and Father would wish. In the second diary there will be Louisa, just as she is." Side by side, the diary entries (the secret one in italics) offer a rich comparison of what Louy wants her parents to see and, more interestingly, what she is really thinking. Through Louisa’s words, readers will become familiar with the returning-to-nature movement that the writings of Thoreau and Emerson glorified. Unfortunately, instead of the idyllic life of harmony that they envisioned, the Alcott’s find frustration, dissention, and the possibility of starvation. Though readers must remember that this is all fiction, the result is a rich evocation of a fascinating experiment. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061975813
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • File size: 402 KB

Meet the Author

Gloria Whelan

National Book Award-winning author Gloria Whelan weaves rich historical detail into this compelling mystery. Ms. Whelan is the bestselling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award, Parade of Shadows, and Listening for Lions. She lives in northern Michigan.

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First Chapter

JUNE 1, 1843

We are all going to be made perfect. This day we left Concord in the rain to travel by wagon the ten miles to our new home, which Father has named Fruitlands. The wagon was piled high with our possessions. Father drove the wagon. Mother was beside him holding two-year-old Abby May. Mr. Lane and Anna set us a good example by walking while I sat selfishly in the wagon with Lizzie. Mr. Lane's son, William, who is twelve, also rode in the wagon, though we had little to do with him.

The countryside around here is very pretty. Our new house is set on a hill. There is a stream and a wood nearby. In the distance I can just make out Mt. Monadnock stretched out like a sleeping giant. I feel much comforted by so fine a sight.

There is a snowfall of white syringa blossoms around the house. Their sweet scent, along with the perfume of the lilacs, pours in through the open windows to cheer us.

Our new home has a small dining room, a library for Mr. Lane's many books, and a large kitchen for Mother. Above are bedrooms. William is to have his own room. Anna, Lizzie, and I will share the attic. Abby May will be in Mother and Father's room. The other rooms are for Mr. Lane and the new members we hope to add to our family. The house was built before our Revolution. The floors tip this way and that, and the floorboards squeak and groan when you jump upon them, which Lizzie and I did.

Father and Mr. Lane are removing us from the imperfect world. By the fine example we all set at Fruitlands, we are to be a means of improving mankind. We will do nothing that might harm our brother animals. We will eat only fruit, vegetables, and grains. Because milkbelongs to the cow and her calf, we will drink only water.

Father says we may eat those things that grow upright, aspiring to the air, such as apples, wheat, and cabbage. We are not to eat base things like potatoes and beets, which grow downward into the dirt.

When Father visited Mr. Lane in England, Mr. Lane was so impressed with Father's ideas that he and his son, William, left England to join us. It is Mr. Lane's generosity that is paying for all of this, but it is Father's vision that has led us to begin this new life. Father says that each man should live his own life, not as others live theirs. I pray that I can curb my temper and my laziness so that my behavior will be worthy of Father's high purpose.

I will put down a record of all that happens, for Father says that a journal is the way to come to know yourself, and it is only by knowing yourself that you are free to become yourself.

JUNE 2, 1843

This is to be my secret diary. Mother says our diaries ought to be a record of pure thoughts and good actions. She and Father often peek into our diaries to see that it is so. Yet Father tells us that we must be honest in our thoughts. I don't see how the two fit together. I am resolved to keep two diaries, one to share with Mother and Father, and this one which shall be my honest thoughts. In the first diary there will be Louy, who will try to be just what Mother and Father would wish. In the second diary there will be Louisa, just as she is.

I cried at leaving our dear little home in Concord yesterday and all of our friends, especially Mr. Emerson and my great friend, Mr. Thoreau. It was Mr. Emerson who gave Father the money for his trip to England, so Mr. Emerson takes a great interest in Father's plans. Before we left I overheard Mr. Emerson say about our scheme, "It may go well in the summer, but what of the winter?" His words sent a chill down my spine, for no one is smarter than Mr. Emerson. Even Mr. Emerson agrees to that.

Our journey was a miserable one. Mother held an umbrella over baby Abbie May, who didn't mind the trip but played at catching raindrops. It was raining so hard that we smelled like a wagonful of wet dogs. To make room for all of our possessions, Mr. Lane and Anna walked alongside the wagon. Mr. Lane is to teach us all how we are to improve ourselves. I watched him stride along behind the wagon, his head up, his chin out, proud of walking while others rode. He did not look like a man who thought he needed improvement.

Anna, who is twelve, two years older than I am, and much better than I, plodded along beside him. Toward the end, Anna's boots and skirts were all muddy, and her wet hair hung down like strands of seaweed. Giving me one of his disapproving looks, Father told Anna he was proud of her unselfishness in walking. I seem never to be able to please Father.

Because Father named our new place Fruitlands, I had hoped there would be an orchard, but there are only a few ancient apple trees. This is troubling, for fruit is to be the greater part of our diet. Still, a woods lies nearby and a gentle stream. Perhaps I will find an escape therefrom Mr. Lane's hard lessons.

I am not alone in my worries over our new life. Though she tried to hide them, there were tears in Mother's eyes as she saw all that needed doing to make our new home liveable.

Anna, Lizzie, and I sleep in the attic, which is dusty and dark and full of cobwebs and spiders. I helped Anna open the two small windows ...

Fruitlands. Copyright © by Gloria Whelan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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