Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Review: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Ah, the joy to reread a childhood treasure. I had adored this as a child, even managed to get through the Shirley Temple movie many a time despite their gross alteration of the ending, and years haven't taken anything away from it.

For those new to the book: young Sara Crewe, whose father is in India, is sent to Miss Minchin's boarding school in London. As the wealthiest student, she is lauded on by the teachers, but also as the nicest student, she is beloved by most of her peers. Sadly, she is orphaned, and left penniless. Then made to live in the attic and work for her keep, she still manages to always make the best of things.

While the cruel Victorian headmistress and the drudgery of foggy London have been done in innumerable books, this one was so unique in the character of Sara Crewe. While a bit of the language about India was cringe-worthy today ("orientals"), it is authentic to the times, and Ms. Burnett just so perfectly describes everything that you really feel you are there. Lavinia and Jessie certainly show that "mean girls" were not a 20th Century invention, and it's nice that Ermagine is actually not so bright (a little unusual for this kind of book.) Miss Minchin's cruelty is fairly stereotypical but her sister Miss Amelia's breakdown isn't, and certainly the life of a spinster in that era wasn't easy or without its own cruelties. A beautiful classic about optimism, the importance of imagination, and the lessons that there are always those less fortunate than ourselves, this book deserves to stay around for centuries to come.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.


Julie P. said...

Thanks for sharing. Isn't that the truth about mean girls? I think they probably have been around forever, but it never gets easier to deal with! Great review!

Sarah at SmallWorld said...

I loved this book sooooo much. So neat to find, tucked away in a tiny town nearby, the house where Burnett lived for awhile near Knoxville, TN.