Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort of)

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Sept. 2020. 272p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780062875976; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780062875969.
Gr 5-8–A middle grade graphic novelization on the tail end of Little Women’s latest resurgence. As aspiring writer Jo March begins eighth grade, she maintains an anonymous blog and, despite initial trepidation, joins the school newspaper while supporting her sisters—Meg, Beth, and Amy—and mother Marmee, who’s balancing work, family, and her husband’s deployment. When best friend Laurie confesses unrequited romantic interest, it only makes things more complicated—especially since Jo’s smitten with Freddie Bhaer, the paper’s female editor. Whether fitting in, coming out, or taking care, Jo leads a life that’s at once conventional and convoluted, but the March women always get by with a little effort and a whole lot of love. Over 150 years, Little Women has been reimagined for every conceivable medium and succeeding generation. Gros’s version, told through Jo’s introspective blog posts and dialogue, pops with clean, bright digital illustrations. Generally, characters map one to one with source material. All named characters except for Freddie, who is brown-skinned, are white; numerous characters of color are featured in the background. Superfans may spot a few Easter eggs: Meg’s high school, for instance, is named after Little Women’s original publisher, and the middle school is named after the editor who helped shape the book. And since some readers must know in advance, Beth doesn’t die.
VERDICT A super-cute, heartstring-strumming, accessible rendition.

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