Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at thefireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her littlesock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she remembered her mother'spromise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. Sheknew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that itwas a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey. She woke Meg with a "MerryChristmas," and bade her see what was under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared, withthe same picture inside, and a few words written by their mother, which made their one presentvery precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage and find their little booksalso, one dove-colored, the other blue, and all sat looking at and talking about them, while theeast grew rosy with the coming day.In spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet and pious nature, which unconsciouslyinfluenced her sisters, especially Jo, who loved her very tenderly, and obeyed her because heradvice was so gently given."Girls," said Meg seriously, looking from the tumbled head beside her to the two little nightcapped ones in the room beyond, "Mother wants us to read and love and mind these books, andwe must begin at once. We used to be faithful about it, but since Father went away and all thiswar trouble unsettled us, we have neglected many things. You can do as you please, but I shallkeep my book on the table here and read a little every morning as soon as I wake, for I know itwill do me good and help me through the day."Then she opened her new book and began to read. Jo put her arm round her and, leaningcheek to cheek, read also, with the quiet expression so seldom seen on her restless face."How good Meg is! Come, Amy, let's do as they do. I'll help you with the hard words, andthey'll explain things if we don't understand," whispered Beth, very much impressed by the prettybooks and her sisters' example.
Louisa May Alcott was born in 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She is best known for Little Women (1968), which is loosely based on her own life and proved to be one of the most popular children's books ever written. Three sequels followed: Good Wives (1869), Little Men (1871), and Jo's Boys (1886). Alcott was the daughter of the famous transcendentalist Bronson Alcott and was friend of Emerson and Thoreau. In addition to writing, she worked as a teacher, governess, and Civil War nurse, as well as being an advocate of abolition, women's rights, and temperance. She died in 1888 and is buried in Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.