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Little Women: Mermaid Edition by Megan Lois Whitehill

Picture Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March as mermaids adorned with long, graceful tails and pastel-colored hair, living under the sea. That’s what the niece of Megan Lois Whitehill inspired in the author when she requested a mermaid book for her birthday. The result is Little Women: Mermaid Edition (Rockwater Press).

The result is a charming, amusing and poignant reimagining of Alcott’s Little Women. Whitehill creates the fantastical world of the Marsh family, who live in a modest but homey cave furnished with clam shell beds and chairs with seaweed cushions, coral fixtures and colorful walls. Sand dollars serve as money. There is squid ink for artist Amy, baby catfish and a miniature herringbone harp for Beth, shell corsets for Meg, scrolls for scroll-worm Jo and a letter-in-a-bottle from Mr. Marsh.

While Whitehill has abridged the story, she remains faithful to its arc and themes. At times she uses Alcott’s exact dialogue in conversations between characters. She focuses on Jo’s struggles rather than her dissatisfaction with not being born a boy. In her author’s note, Whitehill declares, “Patriarchy does not translate into a world of powerful mermaids.” Instead, she focuses on Jo’s anger issues, her fear of growing up, and how womanhood will affect relations between her sisters and best friend, Laurie.


My favorite part of Whitehill’s rendition was her treatment of Laurie and Amy. In many ways, she clarified and justified their relationship by following Laurie’s transition from a boy lovesick over Jo to a mature young man preparing for a lifelong commitment to Amy.

The sweetest passage was Whitehill’s description of the dying Beth, making gifts for the school children:

The feeble fingers were never idle. One of her pleasures was to make little things for the merchildren daily passing in front of their caves. She wove little armlets for their dolls. She strung tiny shell corsets and carved miniature combs. The dolls of their neighborhood never looked better. If Beth had wanted any reward, she found it in the bright little faces always turned up to her window. The merchildren brought their dolls to hold to the glass, displaying their new outfits. Sweet little letters-in-bottles off and arrived for her full of thumbprints and gratitude.

The mermaid theme, delightful illustrations by Andrea Vásquez A., and the abridged story make Little Women Mermaid Edition an enchanting entry point to Alcott’s book for younger readers. Whitehill delivered for her niece, thus adding a valuable new edition to the Little Women canon. I suspect many mothers and aunts will give their daughters and nieces this lovely book as a birthday present.


More BookTrib coverage of Little Women, including other adaptations!


About Megan Lois Whitehill:

Driven by wild curiosity and a passion for the enchanted, Megan Lois Whitehill can’t stop making up imaginary worlds. When her niece asked her for a ‘good mermaid book’, she started retelling classics as adventures under the sea. Megan has traveled to over 14 countries and lived abroad. She loves tasting new foods, exploring new biomes, and hearing an area’s legends. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics, and—quite frankly—loves words. All of these experiences add richness and depth to her stories. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find her enjoying a sauna, over-thinking movie plots, or restoring vintage teddy bears. She lives in Pennsylvania with her loving husband and two parakeets.

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Little Women: Mermaid Edition by Megan Lois Whitehill
Author: Megan Lois Whitehill
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