A merry christmas

Words: 601-700

Skills: Context Clues Summary Theme

Grades: 2nd 3rd 4th

Topics: Realistic Fiction

Genres: Prose

Lexile Range:

Lexile Measure:

CCSS: Reading: Literature

Themes:

A Merry Christmas


by Louisa May Alcott from Little Women

Chapter Two passage: Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women” shortly after the Civil War in 1868 and 1869. It is her most notable work and has been loved by children for generations. In this passage, the four March sisters learn about the true meaning of Christmas. After reading the passage, students will answer questions on the details of the story, the theme, the language, and make an inference on some of the implied descriptions.

Reading Comprehension Passage

A Merry Christmas

by Louisa May Alcott from Little Women
Little Women is about Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. They are fours sisters growing up during the Civil War. Their father is a chaplain with the Union Army, and the family does not have much money. In this passage, Mrs. March has just returned home. The girls have been waiting for their mother to come home so they could have a Christmas breakfast. Hannah is the cook and maid for the family.

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 "Merry Christmas, little daughters! But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?"

They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a minute no one spoke, only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously, "I'm so glad you came before we began!"

"May I go and help carry the things to the poor little children?" asked Beth eagerly.

"I shall take the cream and the muffins," added Amy, heroically giving up the article she most liked.

Meg was already covering the buckwheats, and piling the bread into one big plate.

"I thought you'd do it," said Mrs. March, smiling as if satisfied. "You shall all go and help me, and when we come back we will have bread and milk for breakfast, and make it up at dinnertime."

They were soon ready, and the procession set out. Fortunately it was early, and they went through back streets, so few people saw them, and no one laughed at the queer party.

A poor, bare, miserable room it was, with broken windows, no fire, ragged bedclothes, a sick mother, wailing baby, and a group of pale, hungry children cuddled under one old quilt, trying to keep warm.

How the big eyes stared and the blue lips smiled as the girls went in.

"Ach, mein Gott! It is good angels come to us!" said the poor woman, crying for joy.

"Funny angels in hoods and mittens," said Jo, and set them to laughing.

In a few minutes it really did seem as if kind spirits had been at work there. Hannah, who had carried wood, made a fire, and stopped up the broken panes with old hats and her own cloak. Mrs. March gave the mother tea and gruel, and comforted her with promises of help, while she dressed the little baby as tenderly as if it had been her own. The girls meantime spread the table, set the children round the fire, and fed them like so many hungry birds, laughing, talking, and trying to understand the funny broken English.

"Das ist gut!" "Die Engel-kinder!" cried the poor things as they ate and warmed their purple hands at the comfortable blaze. The girls had never been called angel children before, and thought it very agreeable. That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn't get any of it. And when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.

"That's loving our neighbor better than ourselves, and I like it," said Meg, as they set out their presents while their mother was upstairs collecting clothes for the poor Hummels.



Passage Only

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. What are two of the breakfast items the girls gave to the Hummel family?



2. The text speaks of “blue lips” and “purple hands.” Why were the lips and hands these colors?



3. Explain what the author means when she says, “there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts.”



4. What does “procession” mean in the following sentence from the passage: “They were soon ready, and the procession set out.”