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A Little Princess Paperback – Box set, December 9, 1998
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About the Author
Frances Hodgson Burnett was a born storyteller. Even as a young child, her greatest pleasure was in making up stories and acting them out, using her dolls as characters. She wrote over forty books, including the classic A Little Princess, also illustrated by Tasha Tudor.
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Princess is a whacking good story which allows the tale to rise above being a lesson in morals. Kids don't want to be preached to but given a good story and interesting characters they'll get the point subtly. But that is also true with adults.
Some reviewers have criticized the book because at the end of the story Becky went home with Sara as her maid. Author Burnett, however, is being true to 1899 London. The Cockney Becky could never be the equal of Sara Crewe the heiress. It's the way things were and to some extent the way things still are. Other reviewers have complained that Sara is too perfect. She is, however, too spunky to be insipid and she is certainly not goody-goody like Pollyanna. As a child reader I didn't regard her as too perfect nor do I now.
You will laugh at an old lady reading a children's book she hasn't read in 75 years But now I read as a literary critic and Princess is not wanting in the quality of its writing and the deft originality of the plot. Ms. Burnett can write with beautifully apt descriptions and a taut, quickly moving plot. She in no way dumbs down her prose when writing for children. She puts you into foggy London right away, and introduces Sara and her father to Miss Minchin's Seminary “where the very armchairs seemed to have hard bones in them” and Miss Minchin herself had “large cold fishy eyes and a large cold fishy smile.”
If you have any little girl in your family who has not read “The Little Princess” do pop the book into her Christmas stocking. She'll love it, trust me! And so will you!
The story follows 10 year old Miss Mary. She grew up in India with her parents until cholera wiped out her household. When she was little, she was raised by her nurse and was given anything she wanted. Everyone had to listen to her and do what she said. So when everyone was gone, she didn't really know what to do. She was sent to live with her uncle in England. Her uncle was very hands off and left her to her own devices. Between her maid, the housekeeper, and a gardener, she slowly transitions from a spoiled, bored, sickly child to a rather independent, lively child who enjoys gardening. She is encouraged by everyone to spend as much time outdoors to improve her health and strength. She meets Dicken, her maid's brother who has a strong affinity for animals and talking to him helps her see the world differently. She finds her way into a garden that has been shut-up and hidden for a decade. Between her and Dicken they begin to bring the garden to life and the changes they make there begin to reflect themselves in the spirits and health of the young ones. Mysterious crying in the house leads to a new discovery the helps to bring the magic of the secret garden completely to life.
I think the story is a great message to everyone. It teaches about the importance of not being spoiled and lazy. It shows acceptance of disabilities and illustrates the power of thoughts. I found the story to be highly enjoyable and engaging. The writing was simple and fun to read. The language was not extremely difficult but it did provide vocabulary that most children now-a-days do not hear very often. It is also told from the child's point of view so it will be very easy for children to relate to. Even as an adult, I was able to connect with the story. The simple lessons taught throughout that I mentioned before are relevant even to an adult's life and it helps to see the world through their eyes. I highly recommend this book if you have never read it before.
You can sample the book as a Kindle freebie or in some other downloadable form, since it's out of copyright and readily available. Then, and better yet, after you read it and discover its pleasures, look for a nice edition to give to each young reader you know. There are easy to read books that are shallow, and there are harder to read books with considerable depth, but this one manages to be accessible to a fairly young reader and yet still loaded with fine writing, style, character, mystery, romance, adventure and inspiration. An excellent choice.
And while you're at it, take a look at Burnett's "Little Lord Fauntleroy". He's gotten a bad rap, (probably as a result of those Fauntleroy suits and haircuts that were the rage in the twenties), but he's actually smart , level headed, and shrewdly decent in unexpected ways. So go and get your Burnett on.