Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

324 pages
Published 1904, reprinted 1992
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, NY

As a life-long fan of The Secret Garden it really surprised me when I stopped to consider the fact that I had never read any other of Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's novels. I remember years ago watching the Shirley Temple movie adaptation of A Little Princess, which I liked, but for some reason I just never got around to reading the book.

And so I found myself in December with the holidays fast approaching and the 2009 reading year drawing to an end, but with A Little Princess still on my list of "Must Reads" for the year. I knew that if I was going to read it there was no better time than Christmas vacation; so I slipped the book into my luggage and it traveled the many long miles and hours cross-country to our family and vacation. One I was settled in and had caught up on sleep and family visiting I began reading... in a day and a half I'd finished one of the most delightful stories I'd read all year.

The Plot:
When Sara Crewe arrives at Miss Minchin's London boarding school, she seems just like a real little princess. She wears beautiful clothes, has gracious manners, and tells the most wonderful stories. Then one day, Sara suddenly becomes penniless. Now she must wear rags, sleep in the school's dreary attic, and work for her living. Sara is all alone, but she keeps telling herself that she can still be a little princess inside, if only she tries hard enough. (Summary courtesy of the publisher)

My Thoughts:

Even though A Little Princess was written and published with young children in mind, I still enjoyed it as an adult reading it for the first time. The writing is simple yet detailed, descriptive, and imaginative. The characters are either easily liked and understood or just as easily despised. Sara's story is like a fairytale and yet possible enough that it could just as easily have happened in real life to a little girl living in England during the turn of the last century.

One of the strongest lessons that can be taken from this book is the lesson of self-worth and inner beauty. The name Sara (or Sarah) means "princess" (which I think was definitely in the mind of the author when creating this story). In the book Sara Crewe is the daughter of a wealthy investor and several of her boarding school classmates call her a princess because of her princess-like demeanor, fine clothing, beautiful dolls, and other expensive belongings. But when Sara loses all her worldly possessions she is determined to prove she is a princess not because of how she dresses or what she owns, but because of how she feels about herself and how she treats others. Sara succeeds by letting her true inner beauty and love shine forth from her soul to everyone around her.

If you haven't already guessed I loved this book. Of course, I've loved all the stories I've read by Frances Hodgson Burnett; she is one of my all-time favorite authors (and I have only just scratched the surface in reading her novels). If you haven't already read A Little Princess (or if it has been a while) I highly encourage you to pick up a copy and read it! I've added it to my own personal library and look forward to re-reading it again one day and to sharing it with my daughter. Out of five stars I'd rate A Little Princess a five. This is a must read, must own classic!

Other Burnett Books I've Read and Reviewed:
The Shuttle
The Making of a Marchioness (also published as Emily Fox-Seton with The Methods of Lady Walderhurst included)
The Methods of Lady Walderhurst


Brittanie said...

This is one of my favorites too. The Secret Garden is on my all time favorite list. There is just something about it.

Beth said...

I agree! I couldn't believe that I had never read any of her books until I was an adult. I have already introduced A Secret Garden and The Little Princess to my kids.

Dana said...

I watched the movie version of this book as a child, but I can't remember if I ever picked up the book. Regardless, it definitely sounds like a worthwhile read!