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A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
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A Little Princess (original 1905; edition 1987)

by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tasha Tudor (Illustrator)

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8,017134400 (4.23)1 / 325
Member:hemlokgang
Title:A Little Princess
Authors:Frances Hodgson Burnett
Other authors:Tasha Tudor (Illustrator)
Info:HarperTrophy (1987), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Children, Film, England

Work details

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)

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English (130)  German (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (133)
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A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett


After I became a fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett, I did a little research on her. She lived to be 79 years old from 1849 to 1924. Turns out that back in her time, she was an incredibly popular author. I don't mean she was merely successful. I mean she was a celebrity. Famous. One article I read called her the "J.K. Rowling of her age."

I find that easy to believe. Her work is rife with verisimilitudinal descriptions. My favorite thing!

There are three things I love in a story. Great dialog. Poetic prose. Poignant verisimilitude. Notice I made no mention of plot or characters. Great characters and amazing storylines fall flat without those other things.

Since the original publication of the book in 1905, A Little Princess remains immensely popular and has been made into a motion picture 5 times between 1917 and 1997 and there have been nearly an equivalent number of television versions; Not to mention, approximately 8 theatrical productions.

The premise of the story is that a little English girl named Sara Crewe, living in India, is sent to a boarding school in London while her father returns to India to run a diamond mine. The 1997 movie version changes the school location to America with the father going off to fight in WWI, which I think is far more perilous and compelling, but of course, WWI didn't begin until 1914, a full 9 years after the book was written. So, there was no way the book version could have incorporated WWI into the storyline because WWI hadn't existed yet. In the movie, during that scene where Sara is saying goodbye to her father, I cry like a little girl everytime I see it. Seriously, I refuse to watch that film in the presence of other people, because because I sniffle like a baby. It's emasculating and pathetic. I'm Indiana Jones. I'm Han Solo. I'm James Bond. I can't be getting all weepy when a little girl says goodbye to her dad. But I do. Everytime.

Due to the changes in language and slang and the idiosyncrasies of the evolution in literary trends, books that are a century old can often become difficult to follow. However, once you start to read some older novels, you discover the problem isn't the language, it's just bad writing. Have you ever read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain? Obviously, Mark Twain is revered as one of the greatest American authors of all time, but that book is horribly written. Within the first ten pages, Tom's Aunt Polly recites an entire page of exposition aloud, while standing in the yard, to absolutely no one. At least I think it happens in the yard, Mark Twain doesn't seem to like to write descriptions of locations. Aunt Polly just starts talking out loud, explaining all sorts of details about the story, to herself. There are no other characters around. Then a few pages later, Tom is talking to his aunt, then he's getting into fistfight which I think might be happening in front of his house. But since Mark Twain doesn't bother to give any description of where Tom is at, I really have no idea where the heck the fight takes place. Mark Twain deserves his impeccable reputation as an essayist, but he's one overrated novelist.

Obviously, this is not a review to criticize Tom Sawyer, it's a review to praise A Little Princess. I'm only citing Mark Twain to prove a point. The point I'm trying to make is, I was once of the mentality that many old classics were terrible books. What I have come to learn is, great writing is timeless. Bad books will always be bad books. Great books will always be great books. Don't be like I was. Never presume a book will be bad, just because it was written 100 years ago. Never presume a book will be good, just because the author is considered a national treasure. Some of the so-called "classics" are complete crap.

Classics like A Little Princess are golden milestones in the history of English literature. A priceless treasure that shall remain of value until the demise of humanity itself.

Frances Hodgson Burnett is an enchanting author. Like all my favorite writing, she just weaves the perfect tapestry of language to describe the emotions and thoughts of her characters. She writes in a way that makes me jealous because she so readily captures the human heart in such simple words. Perfect words. Words that could not be rearranged with synonyms and find the same meaning. For that is the ultimate alchemy of gifted authors, their sublime talent at finding exactly the right words, for exactly the right feelings, and arranging them together in a canvas so flawless, that to displace a single syllable would make the entire image dissolve into dust.

One such sentence reads:
 
"But what does anything matter when one's Magic has just proved itself one's friend."
 
Without any further explanation, we know exactly what that means. That single sentence gives me chills. To think that just one other person understands that feeling and can put it into words is astonishing.
 
"It's true," she said. "Sometimes I do pretend I am a princess. I pretend I am a princess, so that I can try and behave like one."
 
That is one of those passages I have never forgotten since the moment I read it. To think that even for one moment in this world there was a single soul who thought with such nobility in her heart is inspiring in a way I am incapable of articulating. Were I ever to become the father of daughters, they will all read that and be taught they must take it to heart. And of course a son would learn he must behave as no less than a prince. But of course, that would first require courting a mother who already held such integrity and well, there's not much hope of that. Those girls only exist in stories. That's why we write them.

When the first girl I ever loved, Michelle, was a child, her mother Brenda forbade her from playing with a troublemaker down the street, because Brenda feared this naughty girl may be a bad influence on her daughter. Michelle, at the time only 4 or 5 years old, looked at her mother and said, "Did you ever stop to think that maybe I might be a good influence on her?"

Brenda never tried to stop my love from playing with that girl again. Michelle is the kind of girl who was the embodiment of Sara Crewe. As Michelle died more than 20 years ago, there no longer exist princesses of such integrity. Nowadays, such girls only exist in myth and legend.
 
"How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do understand. Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another soul."
 
There. The words that everyone knows. The words everyone understands. Yet I've never seen it described so perfectly.
 
"And there Sara would stand, sometimes turning her face upward to the blue which seemed so friendly and near - just like a lovely vaulted ceiling - sometimes watching the west and all the wonderful things that happened there: the clouds melting or drifting or waiting softly to be changed pink or crimson or snow-white or purple or pale dove-gray. Sometimes they made islands or great mountains enclosing lakes of deep turquoise-blue, or liquid amber, or chrysoprase-green; sometimes dark headlands jutted into strange, lost seas; sometimes slender strips of wonderful lands joined other wonderful lands together. There were places where it seemed that one could run or climb or stand and wait to see what next was coming - until, perhaps, as it all melted, one could float away. At least it seemed so to Sara, and nothing had ever been quite so beautiful to her as the things she saw as she stood on the table - her body half out of the skylight - the sparrows twittering with sunset softness on the slates. The sparrows always seemed to her to twitter with a sort of subdued softness just when these marvels were going on."
 
That is beauty so grand it soothes like warmest waters yet skewers the breast with knitting needle heartache. How can it be? How can it be to find others of my tribe upon pages a century old? With such paragraphs you begin to wonder, is this a ruse? Could it be a coincidence? Are these cruel tricks of the light shimmering across a mischievous universe of time and space? Are such words the only ones this person could ever speak to my heart? Or is there something real? Is there a magic to the workings of the world that I have merely forgotten?

For me Sara Crewe is so much more than a fiction. She is a daughter child, a sister comrade, a wise mother and a companion bride. There are no real humans who see life the way she and I do. Only the ones of which I can dream.

A Little Princess is about something that no living soul possesses. This is a story about kindness and fortitude and compassion. And it is about holding onto those things in the face of cruelty and hopelessness and loneliness and death and barren places where we sit imprisoned.

A Little Princess is better than anything I've ever written and I fear better than anything I will ever write. This story is a beacon for our tribe. This story is one of the markers. You found this review because it's time for you to meet Sara Crewe. You need to read her story. You need her to accompany you right now. This point in your life is when you were meant to become friends with A Little Princess. She might be a good influence on you. ( )
  EricMuss-Barnes | Mar 22, 2015 |
I remember watching the movie version when I was little and finding it to be so fanciful and dreamy that the story has stayed with me even into adulthood.

Suppose...just suppose that one day I become a mother. Oh how I would hope that my baby was a little daughter with whom I could share such charming stories. Wouldn't it be grand? ( )
  Mozzie | Jan 15, 2015 |
The way Sarah is portrayed is completely unrealistic, in my opinion. I mean, people like her because she can speak perfect French and she has a personal maid? Puh-lease. ( )
  IsaboeOfLumatere | Jan 14, 2015 |
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett; (5*)

This tale has ever been a favorite of mine. I read it for the first time in 2nd grade, checking it out of the school library. I read it 2 or 3 times a year until I reached my teens and then cut back to once a year, always over the Christmas holidays. By that time I had my own copy and what a treasure that book was to me. As an adult I have continued to read it every few years. This book just fills up some empty space in my heart & soul.
It is the story of a very different kind of princess than one might imagine; a motherless child, Sara Crewe, whose father always called her his little princess. When he was called away to fight in the Crimean War he took her to an elite girl's school run by one arrogant Miss Minchin & her cowardly sister. She was their most exclusive student and most all of the girls wanted to be her friend including one very timid scullery maid, Becky, for Sarah was the only girl there to befriend her.
When her papa dies penniless, having lost all of his wealth, Sara is forced to give up her schooling, to clean & run errands for the Miss Minchins, (throwing her out in the streets would put their school in a very bad light) & scuttle coal as Becky did. They took all of her pretty clothes & dolls away from her and made her live in a cold, leaky attic room under the eaves of the house. She and Becky soon made up a code whereby they could communicate with each other by knocking on the wall between their rooms. Even though Sara is always cold, never has enough to eat and is friendless except for Becky, she remains the same sweet little girl who was her father's 'little princess'.
The man in the neighboring house took a great interest in the girls, especially Sara, and his rooms looked right into hers. It is very interesting how, in the book, his life becomes engaged with hers.
The Little Princess is a beloved story tale as are all of the writings of Frances Hodgson Burnett and it happens to be my favorite. This is a wonderful story even for adults and for those of us nearing or going into our 'second' childhood.
I very highly recommend it. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Dec 27, 2014 |
Final Reflection
  auntiepants88 | Dec 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (197 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frances Hodgson Burnettprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Armes, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Betts, Ethel FranklinIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Birch, ReginaldIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, RebeccaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Curiace, GismondeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engelbreit, MaryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardam, JaneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gill, MargeryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henterly, JamichaelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knoepflmacher, U. C.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
López, AnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leishman, VirginiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mah, Adeline YenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKowen, ScottIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piffard, HaroldIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rust, GrahamIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tudor, TashaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vielhomme-Callais, PauletteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father, and was driven rather slowly through the big thorough-fares.
Quotations
When people are insulting you, there is nothing so good for them as not to say a word - just look at them and think...when you will not fly into a passion, people know you are stronger than they are, because you are strong enough to hold in your rage and they are not, and they say things they wish they hadn't said afterwards. There's nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in - that's stronger.
Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment. The temptation to be unreasonable and snappish is one not easy to manage.
If Nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that -- warm things, kind things, sweet things -- help and comfort and laughter -- and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.
"Perhaps," she said, "to be able to learn things quickly isn't everything. To be kind is worth a great deal to other people. If Miss Minchin knew everything on earth and was like what she is now, she'd still be a detestable thing, and everybody would hate her. Lots of clever people have done harm and have been wicked. Look at Robespierre -- "
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Sara Crewe, or What Happened At Miss Minchin's, the work on which A Little Princess is based, was first written as a serialized novella. It was published in St. Nicholas Magazine in 1888.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
A kind and wealthy Anglo-Indian girl in a posh British boarding school becomes impoverished after the death of her father and is forced to become a servant at the school, living in an unheated garret, overworked and underfed. Then a mysterious benefactor comes to her rescue.

AR 6.0, Pts 11
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0064401871, Paperback)

Generations of children have treasured the story of Sara Crewe, the little girl who imagines shes a princess in order to survive hard times at Miss Minchins London boarding school. Now, this classic novel is available in two beautiful new collectors editions. With Tasha Tudors enchanting black-and-white illustrations, and lovely details like a satin ribbon marker and glorious full-color plates in the hardcover, these new editions of A Little Princess are must-haves for anyone who wants to rediscover the magic of this beloved story.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:40 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Sara Crewe, a pupil at Miss Minchin's London School, is left in poverty when her father dies, but is later rescued by a mysterious benefactor.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 34 descriptions

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Editions: 0142437018, 0141321121, 0141341718

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