At some point, you've probably wondered, "Are there books like Little Women that modern kids will like, too?" Perhaps your children have seen one of the cinematic versions of Little Women, or maybe you've read aloud Louisa May Alcott's classic book to your family. No matter how your kids have come into contact with the 1868 novel, no doubt they were intrigued by the story of the March sisters growing up during and after the American Civil War.
Note: this post contains affiliate links that may earn commission.
The stories on this book list tend to center on sibling relationships, girls who dream of breaking boundaries and children coming to understand their own strengths. The list includes historical fiction and contemporary realism, so if your kids want to travel back in time (when life was actually not simpler) or read about kids living familiar, modern lives, there is a title here for anyone who wants a book similar to Little Women.
Books below are categorized by age:
- 8 and up
- 9 and up
- 10 and up (including some best for 11 and up, as indicated)
Ages 8 and Up
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
In 1899, Calpurnia loathes the expectations set for 12-year old-girls; she'd much rather read Darwin's The Origin of Species and catch and study wildlife with her naturalist Granddaddy. I loved this tale of a girl coming of age at a time when natural science and engineering discoveries were changing the world. Be sure to pick up the sequel, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate.
by Sydney Taylor
All-of-a-Kind Family is the first title in a classic series about a Jewish family with five girls growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City in the early 20th century. The old-school adventures of the family are heart-warming and entertaining.
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher
This book made me laugh out loud. A family of 2 dads and 4 adopted sons (all together they span several ethnicities and religions) lead a rather disordered and hilarious lifestyle. The boys all have different personalities, which could lend themselves to stereotypes, but thankfully do not. After finishing this book I wanted to move right in to the Fletcher household, if only to try out their DIY hockey rink. (You’ll have to read it to find out.)
by Jeanne Birdsall
It's hard to believe this book was written only a few years ago! It has all the charm of books like Little Women, Betsy-Tacy or Anne of Green Gables. The Penderwicks rent a house for summer vacation and have such splendid adventures with the musically talented boy who lives in the "big house" you'd be hard pressed to remember they exist in the same world as cell phones and Wiis.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
by Karen Yan Glaser
It is just before Christmas and the Vanderbeekers are going to be forced to move from their beloved Harlem brownstone unless they can change the mind of their grumpy landlord who just happens to be their upstairs neighbors. This creative, bi-racial family sets to work to win him over in this appealing and heartwarming story the whole family will adore! A great read aloud for all ages.
Ages 9 and up
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers
by Celia C. Pérez
Four very different girls come together to work towards a goal. The Floras is a beauty pageant girls club and and uses a crown made of bird feathers to crown the winner. Cat, Aster, Ofelia and Lane team up to get the Floras to stop using the crown. They hit some bumps along the way and form their own club, the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders. This is a wonderfully engaging story of friendship and justice.
One Crazy Summer
by Rita Williams-Garcia
In 1968, 11-year-old Delphine and her sisters travel from New York to Oakland to stay with the mother who abandoned them seven years earlier. Their mother, who is not exactly happy to host them, enrolls them in a day care run by the Black Panthers. Williams-Garcia's writing is splendid, with interesting characters. It was a hard-to-put-down kind of book and a great non-preachy story to show kids how politics infuses daily regular life.
As Brave As You
by Jason Reynolds
We loved this book about 11-year-old Genie and his brother who have come to rural Virginia to spend the summer with their grandparents. Genie is a boy who loves to ask questions and when he learns about his grandfather's blindness he has a lot to ask! During the summer Genie struggles with making sure he makes the right decisions as he uncovers the secrets of his family's history.
Ages 10 and up
We Dream of Space
by Erin Entrada Kelly
In 1986 Delaware, three siblings navigate seventh grade and family life during the run-up to the Challenger launch. Cash worries he might fail seventh grade, again; Fitch struggles with his temper; and Bird dreams of being NASA's first female shuttle commander. Life at home, with squabbling parents, is difficult. Bird immerses herself in a class project about the space shuttle. Kelly tells their stories in alternating voices in this poignant tale.
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
by Margarita Engle
This is a novel written in verse. Margarita was born in the USA but her mother came from Cuba. The author grew up in mid-20th century Los Angeles and feels her loyalty being tested by the two countries. She spends holidays in Cuba but that all begins to change as the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. deteriorates. Stories of immigrants are so important right now (well, anytime, really) and this is a gorgeous one about a girl who also learns to love reading and poetry along the way.
Catherine Called Birdy
by Karen Cushman
In the 13th century, 14-year-old Catherine, the daughter of a landed knight, has a little more gumption than a girl in her times is supposed to have. Her father is trying to marry her off to enrich his coffers but she would rather run around with the peasants on the manor and thwart his efforts. This short novel is told in a diary format and is 100% hilarious.
Two lives intersect during the American Civil War. When his older brother suffers a terrible accident, 15 year old Leander runs away to join the army. He ends up in a Southern hospital where he befriends a soldier named Paul, who is caring for his father. Paul, however, turns out to be a girl, Polly. When Polly's father dies she joins the army, still in disguise and ends up in Andersonville prison where another soldier takes care of her so that her secret stays safe. At the end of the war she is sent home on the infamous Sultana steamboat, and narrowly escapes its destruction. Author Kathy Cannon Wiechman does not gloss over the harsh reality of war time life and prison. The first half of the book is told from Leander's point of view. The second half belongs to Polly.
The Hired Girl
by Laura Amy Schlitz
14-year-old Joan escapes her abusive father and gets a job as a maid in a Jewish household in early 20th century Baltimore. Schlitz tells the story through Joan's diary. Joan dreams of all that she can become if she can get away from farm life and work hard cooking and cleaning. She immerses herself in doing excellent work for her employers but her determined, naive, and optimistic nature sometimes gets her into difficulty. Nevertheless, she befriends the daughter, falls in love with the son, and is educated by the father, as she explores religion, feminism, art, wealth and a myriad of other profound and mundane topics. Joan's voice is amusing, intelligent and entertaining. Ages 11 and up.
Rain Is Not My Indian Name
by Cynthia Leitich Smith
The story begins with the death of 14-year-old Rain's best friend and love interest. Rain, still grieving over the loss of her friend, gets caught up in a controversy over a relative's Indian Camp. She begins taking photographs for a local paper and finds her voice again. Despite some of the serious nature of the book, it also contains humor and great examples of positive family relationships. Ages 11 and up.
The Downstairs Girl
By Stacey Lee
I could not put this book down! When Jo Kuan is fired from her job at a milliner's she gets work as a lady's maid to a cruel mistress. It's late 19th century Atlanta and folks' opinions of race, gender and class are not exactly enlightened. But when Jo writes an anonymous advice column titled "Dear Miss Sweetie," she challenges the prejudiced views of society. Society is not ready for her, however, and there is a backlash which sends her on a new journey of discovery about her past. Excellent! Ages 12 and up.