Though Louisa May Alcott is best known today for the March Family Trilogy (Little Women/Little Men/Jo's Boys), her lesser works haven't gone out of print since their first appearance and are equally as enjoyable. This is one of my favorites. Set probably in 1878-9 (it was published in 1880), it tells the story of 12-year-old Jack Minot and his constant companion Janey Pecq, known to one and all as Jill, and what happens after an ill-considered sled coast down a steep hill breaks Jack's leg and threatens to cripple Jill for life.
Like most Victorian writers, Alcott had a certain tendency toward religiosity and didacticism, but probably less than many of her contemporaries, which may be one reason she has remained popular for more than a century; though she occasionally inserts moralisms about obedience, "temperance" (which at that time meant total abstinence), and the like into the story, mostly by way of Jack's well-to-do widowed mother, she doesn't do it often (I count four instances). Her main focus is Jill's slow recovery, the trials of Jack and his older brother Frank as they work their way toward manhood, and the attempts of Jill's two particular friends, Merry Grant and Molly Bemis, to improve their own homes and families. Given the prudery of Victorian days, it seems surprising that a boy and a girl would be allowed to be such close friends, yet obviously Alcott thought her readers would find such an idea plausible, and this may make the story attractive to modern young people who are quite accustomed to cross-gender palships. The main weakness of the tale is that the exact nature of Jill's injury is never explained, making her recovery difficult to understand, but Victorian literature was full of mysterious invalidisms, so Alcott was probably only doing what, in her day, came naturally. She also looks ahead by 10 or more years to tell her readers what becomes of the three girls when they grow up--a neat trick considering that it wouldn't have happened until long after the book was published! Best of all is the minutinae of Victorian life and thought, which, while it may occasionally puzzle the young reader of today, is for the most part pretty well self-explanatory. If you have a youngster in your family who has loved reading about the Marches and doesn't realize that Alcott created many more vivid young characters, this would be a good title to suggest to her.