5 Stars Out Of 5
A beautiful children's book.
May 21, 2014
Set in nineteenth-century Boston, Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousinsâ€”originally published seriallyâ€”follows a year in the life of young Rose Campbell. Rose, a sweet and delicate thirteen-year-old, is an orphan. She never knew her late mother, and her father recently passed away, so she is now subject to the care of her aunts and uncles and the attention of her seven boy cousins. There is a problem, though: Rose is dreadfully afraid of boys. How will she ever manage among a throng of young, energetic lads? The efforts of her great aunts to restore her to health and happiness being fruitless, her legal guardian, Uncle Alec, takes over Rose's "bringing up" upon his return from overseas. Uncle Alec, a bachelor and a seafaring doctor with innovative views on raising children, makes a deal with the aunts: they must give him a year to try his best to bring Rose back to health and happiness, and, if his methods prove ineffective, he must hand her over to someone else's care at the end of the year. As Rose soon discovers, Uncle Alec's methods may actually be more practical than anyone ever imaginedâ€”and boys may not be as bad as she thought. Through numerous adventures with her uncle and seven rambunctious cousins, Rose learns what true happiness is and begins to recognize what it means to be truly richâ€”rich not in money and possessions but in virtue and love.
I wish they still published books like this. Sure, it may feel a bit moralizing at times, and the plot may not be exactly riveting, but this book has some beautiful elements that make it worth more than all contemporary children's books put together. One objection I do have to this book is the absence of Jesus Christ in the lives of the characters. While Rose and other characters often talk about "being good," they speak as if they have the ability to "be good" on their ownâ€”as if they can purify themselves. In the Christian worldview, however, humans are subject to the sinful nature. Without Christ, no one can be delivered from that nature.
Despite the absence of this foundational concept, I still find it refreshing to read a book that champions morals, virtue, the beauty of family, and true friendship. The children in this book actually respect their elders, and Alcott clearly praises the adults who are active in the lives of the eight cousins. This book shows that, even in an imperfect world with imperfect people, families can still thrive.
Eight Cousins easily falls in the category of wholesome children's literature. Although I would rank somewhere below The Chronicles of Narnia, it's right up there with works like the Little House series, Little Women, The Secret Garden, and the Caddie Woodlawn books. In comparison to many modern works of fiction for children, this book has a lot of meat in it. It's not just air and sugar like some contemporary works. It has substance. Although the reading level of this novel may be somewhat advanced for younger children, I highly recommend Eight Cousins to readers of all ages. Parents, read it aloud to your young kids. Teens, why not give it a shot? It may not be a thrilling story, but it is beautiful. It will make you smileâ€”and maybe even laugh out loud. If you give it the time of day, you'll find yourself caught up in the lives of some lively and lovely characters and falling in love with Alcott's witty and engaging voice.