Jo’s Last Scrape
Reading Comprehension Activity

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Chapter 3 passage: Louisa May Alcott wrote three books about her character Josephine “Jo” March Bhaer. The first two books, “Little Women” and “Little Men,” were published over 14 years before this final one, “Jo’s Boys.” It was published in 1886 and tells the story of Jo, her husband, Professor Bhaer, their two sons, and the boys and girls they taught in their school. Students will read the passage and answer questions on the plot and the characters.

Topic(s): Realistic Fiction. Skill(s): Summary, Character Traits, Story Elements. Genre(s): Prose

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In this passage from Jo’s Boys, Mrs. Jo Bhaer has become a famous author. Like famous singers and actors today, at that time famous authors were always surrounded by fans and reporters. Jo hates that strangers are always trying to see her and talk to her. A reporter has just rung the doorbell, and Jo’s son Teddy goes to answer the door instead of Mary, the maid.


At that moment the bell rang and the sound of wheels was heard in the road.

‘I’ll go; Mary lets ‘em in’; and Ted smoothed his hair as he made for the hall.

‘Can’t see anyone. Give me a chance to fly upstairs,’ whispered Mrs. Jo, preparing to escape. But before she could do so, a man appeared at the door with a card in his hand. Ted met him with a stern air, and his mother dodged behind the window-curtains to bide her time for escape.

‘I am doing a series of articles for the Saturday Tattler, and I called to see Mrs. Bhaer the first of all,’ began the newcomer in the insinuating tone of his tribe, while his quick eyes were taking in all they could, experience having taught him to make the most of his time, as his visits were usually short ones.

‘Mrs Bhaer never sees reporters, sir.’

‘But a few moments will be all I ask,’ said the man, edging his way farther in.

‘You can’t see her, for she is out,’ replied Teddy, as a backward glance showed him that his unhappy parent had vanished-through the window, he supposed, as she sometimes did when hard bestead.

‘Very sorry. I’ll call again. Is this her study? Charming room!’ And the intruder fell back on the parlour, bound to see something and bag a fact if he died in the attempt. ‘It is not,’ said Teddy, gently but firmly backing him down the hall, devoutly hoping that his mother had escaped round the corner of the house.

‘If you could tell me Mrs. Bhaer’s age and birthplace, date of marriage, and number of children, I should be much obliged,’ continued the unabashed visitor as he tripped over the door-mat.

‘She is about sixty, born in Nova Zembla, married just forty years ago today, and has eleven daughters. Anything else, sir?’ And Ted’s sober face was such a funny contrast to his ridiculous reply that the reporter owned himself routed, and retired laughing just as a lady followed by three beaming girls came up the steps.

Comprehension Questions

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