Under the Lilacs, a children's novel by Louisa May Alcott, was first published in 1878. It is a whimsical tale, different from the oft-serious tone found in the more popular Little Women series. The story features two sister, Bab and Betty Moss, who when playing one day discover a circus runaway, Ben Brown, and his dog Sancho. The girls set Ben up with a job herding cattle, where he gets to ride a horse, his favorite pastime. The girls and Ben have summer adventures, in the process discovering more about life and themselves. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT (1832-1888), one of the most well-known American novelists of the 19th century, was born on November 29, 1832 to transcendentalist educator Amos Bronson Alcott and his wife, Abigail May Alcott. She was the second of four sisters (like Jo, her literary corollary), and grew up in a family that encouraged and sympathized with her abolitionist and feminist leanings. As a child she received instruction from noted literary figures such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, all family friends. In addition to the Little Women series, which included four novels, she wrote 28 other works, three under the pen name A.M Barnard. Though Alcott had chronic health problems in her later years, most likely attributed to an autoimmune disease, she continued to write until her death at 55 in 1888.