on July 12, 1999
This book was a favorite of mine in my childhood, and, when I returned as an adult to re-read it to my own daughter, I discovered it all over again.
This is a story about a different kind of princess than one might imagine; a princess that is an orphan - lonely, cold, hungry and abused. Sara Crewe begins life as the beloved, pampered daughter of a rich man. When he dies a pauper, she is thrown on the non-existent mercy of her small-minded, mercenary boarding school mistress. Stripped of all her belongings but for one set of clothes and a doll, Sara becomes a servant of the household. Hated by the schoolmistress for her independent spirit, Sara becomes a pariah in the household, with only a few secretly loyal friends. But through her inner integrity and strength of will, Sara Crewe maintains the deportment, inner nobility and generous spirit of a "real" princess.
It is a fabulous story of the triumph of human will, and good over evil.
This story is a real classic, and needs no re-writing to be as enjoyable and readable today as it ever was. Ask my 8-year-old daughter, who has already re-read it twice. Accept no substitutes, re-writes, abridgements or copies! This is a work of art, and should not be tampered with.
This book has familiar fairy tale figures, such as a wicked stepmother-like Miss Minchin, a fairy godfather, and an orphan protagonist who is a princess in disguise. It's the story of a little girl who endures some setbacks but reaches a happy ending not only for herself, but for those around her whom she helps even when she's pretty downtrodden.
The writing is charming and Sara comes through as a person who is determined to maintain her values, through good times and bad. She has a definite personality and that is a good role model for any child. She stays true to her beliefs in being kind, mannerly, charitable and above all, herself.
The magic in this book is unsurpassed in children's literature. When Sara comes home, wet and cold and neglected, to find that a magician has transformed her world, you can't help but be enchanted. I will admit to reading it again now and then as an adult. The charm is still there.
Just a fun factoid; A Little Princess was originally a shorter story titled Sara Crewe, in a volume of children's novelettes by Burnett.
on November 9, 2003
A Little Princess, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett was an inspiring story teaching a valuable lesson. Sara Crewe had everything she ever wanted when she went off to boarding school in London. Her fashionable dresses, high quality jewelery, and numerous accessories made her one of the elite. Sara's life was almost perfect, until her eleventh birthday, when a devastating tragedy occurred changing her life forever. Sara received news very abruptly that her father had died, leaving her "penniless". Sara's teacher, Ms. Minchin despised her because she had become poor, and treated her cruely. Now Sara must face her troubles and prove to everyone that she can be strong and perservere through her difficult times.
This book's moral states that everyone can be a princess when they put their minds to it. Being a princess is not about the fame and fortune, but about how you act in the situation into which you have been placed. You can be kind, or you can be mean; you can be content, or you can be greedy; you can be upset, or you can be optimistic. The book really relates to people who are going thruogh tough times in their lives and need reasurance and confidence.
In my opinion, every little girl should have a copy of Francis Hodgson Burnett's "A Little Princess", and it's hard to imagine any one of them not being utterly captivated by it. There's no reason for boys not to enjoy it too, but for girls this story is almost a rite of passage; a reverse-Cinderella story that speak of resilience, kindness, imagination, faith, dignity and courage in the face of grief and despair. Okay, maybe I'm just projecting my own childhood memories onto it, but there are certainly worse things that you could make a part of your child's formative years.
Sara Crewe is a precocious seven-year old at the start of the story, brought to England from India by her father Captain Crewe to attend a girl's school. There she is put into the care of the strict Miss Minchin and her sister Amelia, and almost immediately becomes the darling of the school. The first page of the book provides a compelling description of her: "She stared out of the window at the passing people with a queer old-fashioned thoughtfulness in her big eyes. She was such a little girl that one did not expect to see such a look on her small face. It would have been an old look for a child of twelve, and Sara Crewe was only seven. The fact was, however, that she was always dreaming and thinking odd things, and could not herself remember any time when she had not been thinking things about grown-up people and the world they belonged to. She felt as if she had lived a long, long time."
Though she is afforded every luxury, she's not at all spoiled, and makes friends with everyone from the tantrum-throwing Lottie, to the dull and slow Ermengarde, to the scullery maid Becky. But not everyone likes the strange green-eyed girl who tells such outlandish stories: fellow student Lavinia is jealous of her, and proprietor Miss Minchin cannot fully conceal the grudge she feels toward her "show pupil", one that ferments as the days go by.
But when her father gets embroiled in a bad business venture and dies of stress-related illness as a result, Sara finds herself completely destitute. With no other family, Sara is left in the care of Miss Minchin, who wastes no time in stripping her of her possessions in order to pay off her father's debts, making her an unpaid servant in the boarding school. Shocked and alone, Sara nearly gives into despair, only to remember her game of imagining herself a princess. For her, being a princess did not involve wealth or luxury, but compassion and altruism, and so she resolves to continue to behave like one even in the midst of her poverty; even towards those who mistreat her. It's not always an easy task, but Sara finds the strength and resilience to endure her new life, at least until fate attempts to reverse her fortunes once more.
The book originated as a novella entitled "Sara Crewe", a serialized drama published in a magazine in 1888, which Burnett herself adapted for a stage play called "A Little Un-fairy Princess", adding more characters and details along the way. At this point her publishers asked her for a revised edition of the novel, complete with her new additions, and in 1905 the finished work was republished as "A Little Princess".
These days most of us were probably introduced to the story through Alfonso Cuarón's 1995 filmic adaptation, though there was also a 1939 film starring Shirley Temple, and it can be quite surprising to go back to the original text and discover just how many differences there are. Aspects such as Captain Crewe fighting in WWII and returning with amnesia are constructs of the films, and other familiar details have changed as well. Reading "A Little Princess" for the first time in years, I was genuinely surprised to discover that Sara spent ten years at Miss Minchin's School, aging from a seven year old to a seventeen year old over the course of the story.
Parts have undoubtedly dated, particularly in the portrayal of class relationships. Although Sara is kind to Becky, the scullery maid remains utterly subservient to her, and her reward once Sara is restored to her fortune is to...become Sara's maid. When the Indian gentleman next door notices Sara's plight and begins to send clothing, Becky is ignored, and though Sara is happy to share, Becky gets Sarah's seconds when it comes to anything that's not food. Understandably, this trace of classism is removed in the most recent film, as it all comes across a bit old-fashioned to modern readers.
It is in Sara herself that the true strength of the book lies. Rather like Roald Dahl's Matilda, Sara Crewe is often accused of being too good to be true and in recent years the character has been described as something of a Mary Sue, an increasingly ill-used moniker that is applied to any number of female characters that are deemed too good, too talented, or simply too annoying to the reader. It's a sad misreading of the text, which at times tries to deconstruct the idea of a saintly little girl - Sara is bemused at the effect she has on others, and is self-aware enough to question her own wealth and intelligence. After her father's death there are many times in which she gives into despair or temptation (she throws aside her doll, she snaps at Ermengarde) and the main focus of the story is on her internal struggle to remain true to herself and retain her inner "princess" status.
In short, despite the Victorian moralizing and the Dickensian situation, Sara is a heroine whose worth lies in kindness, faith and her ability to endure. Despite her terrible grief, the course of the story has her finding some degree of beauty and happiness in her life, which in turn gives her a resilience that baffles Miss Minchin. It would take a very cynical heart not to feel a *little* touched by Sara's plight and the way she chooses to deal with it.
Though there's a fine line between saccharine and sincerity, the narrative of "A Little Princess" is still powerful thanks to Burnett's delicate prose and the conviction the story carries, despite its rather anti-climactic resolution. Burnett's later novel The Secret Garden is considered her best work (I concur), but "A Little Princess" still maintains its hold on young imaginations. As it happens, this is my thousandth review for Amazon.com, and I'm very happy that "A Little Princess" managed to be the book that marked the occasion. Revisiting it in adulthood brought back all kinds of childhood memories, and passing it on to the next generation would be my recommendation to you.
on June 4, 2006
I have four words to say... I loved this book! It was an amazing book. It taught me many, many valuable lessons.
A young little girl named Sara Crewe, daughter of Captain Crewe, is an only child who was always treated like royalty. Her father was a very wealthy man and the two lived in India. Sara's father had to go to war so she was sent to Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies. There, Sara was also treated like royalty. Sad to say, Sara's father had died and at that moment, Miss Minchin turned Sara from riches to rags. Sara has always been a wise, smart, independent- spirited girl who would stand tall and believe in what's right. Whenever something went wrong Sara always turned the negatives into something positive. Sara made many friends, one of them being a rat. Another friend is a man that moved near Miss Minchin's Seminary, and made Sara's life a little bit better.
Sara found out why this man had moved here from India. The reason was he was in search of a certain young girl.
I do not want to give the ending away but I strongly believe anyone who reads this novel, will enjoy it as much as I did.
I feel this book was interesting, sad, emotional, fun, spritual, exciting and shocking all at the same time. That is why this is such a great book to read.
Check this book out and you too will love it!!!
on December 24, 2003
When I was six years old, I somehow became convinced that I was a princess. As a result, I now have a copy of this book inscribed "Christmas 1976...From the Queen".
I hadn't read it before, but it instantly became one of my favorites. I was reading it in bed when I got to the scene where Sara finds out her father is dead; I had to stop reading and cry myself to sleep.
There are other scenes, though, that didn't make me cry then, but they sure do now. "Guy Clarence" giving his sixpence to Sara, so convinced that he's setting her up for life. Sara giving away the currant buns to the real beggar child, and the shopkeeper's reaction: "Left just one for herself. And she could have eaten the whole six. I saw it in her eyes." And the very last scene: "Her name is Anne. She has no other."
Another scene that doesn't make me cry, but is still very moving, is when Ram Dass drops into Sara's attic to retrieve the monkey. That conversation plays on so many levels. First of all, he's respectful because she's white and female: kind of creepy from today's perspective, but OTOH, it's been a long time, at that point, since anyone has shown her any real respect. But, because they are both servants, he can be forthright with her, not just say "Yes, Missee Sahib" as he might have when she was wealthy. And moreover, it's refreshing for her to talk with him about India, which she apparently misses a lot. She was never miserable there, at any rate!
And this scene is crucial, because after he leaves, she is face to face with the realization that her life is not going to get any better (as it stood, without Burnett's plot machinations). She mulls this, then decides, "Whatever comes cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside." Much more inspiring than that sappy "All girls are princesses" junk from the movie.
Also, I realize now that Ermengarde really is dumb! Early on, Sara didn't need to be told that Becky was hungry, and having so much to spare, she freely shared food with her; nutritious stuff as well as delicacies. But Ermengarde has to be hit over the head with the concept before she timidly asks, "Sara...Are *you* ever hungry?" DUH! Miss Michin breaking up the feast was brutal beyond redemption, but Ermengarde was also remiss. She could have been smuggling food to Sara all along!
My only regret is that my copy does not have the Tasha Tudor illustrations. I have seen them, and they are very fine, but I'm not giving up my copy at this stage!
on March 27, 2015
The story is very good, but the print is terrible. After reading it from a library, my daughter wants a copy to keep. So I ordered this book. But the original book is over 220 pages, it gets packed into 120 page in this reprint version, you can imaging the font is very tiny, plus no space between the line. Can't enjoy reading this. Have to return it and try to find the old 220 page version.
on November 10, 2000
I read this book in third grade, after seeing the motion picture and loving it. That was five years ago - and this incredible story is still fresh in my mind.
Sara Crewe's father sent her to a boarding school in London to keep her from the ill conditions of their home in India. All her life, Sara had been pampered and indulged in her every wish - but she is far from being spoiled and selfish. She obediently attends Miss Minchin's School for Girls and tries to ignore her longing for her father, who returns to business in India. Surrounded by admirers, expensive toys and clothes, Sara is just like the princess she makes believe she is. But then, her father dies of fever in India, penniless. Poor Sara is made a servant and is treated terribly. It is only her imagination that keeps her going - striving to remain a princess inside, her gentle and sweet manner is what finally brings her her reward.
A Little Princess is another wonderful story (one of my favorites of all time) by Francis Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Tasha Tudor.
on October 31, 2005
Sara is used to being catered to, but her being the one catering someone else is a little different. How can a perfect little princess go from riches to rags? Sara Crewe lived a perfect, wealthy life with a perfect dad. While at a boarding school for girls, she found out that her dad died penniless. That was when her life changed. Her evil head mistress made Sara wear rags and work in the kitchen. I would recommend this book to everyone, because it tells what very rich and very poor people's lives are like, and character traits of a real friend.
This story really shows how rich and poor people's lives are like. Let me start with Sara being very rich. As told in this story and many other stories, rich people never do anything themselves. There's always a maid or someone catering to them. This story also tells that Sara has very, very expensive clothes and the other girls envy her, of course. Also, Sara's father wished for her to learn French. Many rich people often know more that one language, even at the age of seven.
Now, this story also told me how Sara's life was like when she was very, very poor. You probably already have a picture in your head of how a poor person would look like and live, but this story is very detailed. At one point in the story, it said that a family started crying when they saw Sara on the streets and gave the poor girl some bread and water. Miss Minchin was so evil, that when she found out that Sara was penniless, she took advantage of her and made her live in a cold attic with very, very thin rags. She made her work very, very hard all day, or else she wouldn't give Sara any food or shelter.
This story also tells about Sara and her friend Anne. Anne was another very poor girl who Miss Minchin took advantage of. This story shows how real friends should act. When Sara first saw Anne, she was nice to her. Even though Sara was rich and Anne wasn't. Sara also helped get Anne food, a lot. In return, when Sara was poor, Anne got her food too. And even when Sara was poor, she still acted and treated Sara just the same. That is how real friends are supposed to act.
As you can see, this story tells about rich and poor people's lives. And it shows character traits of real friends and how they are supposed to act. This book was an awesome book and was very detailed. I recommend this book to everybody!
on March 2, 2012
A Little Princess is a classic story of a rich little girl who is put under the care of a bitter, selfish schoolhouse matron. At first, the girl is treated as a star pupil; but when her father dies a ruined man, she is cruelly forced to become a servant of the schoolhouse--but her sweet, vibrant nature keeps her alive during these hard times. I have seen quite a few movie adaptations, but the book is much better than the movies. This is a good book for people of all ages to read.