“Everything’s a story. You are a story–I am a story…” (Burnett, p. 92).
A Little Princess is a timeless classic; an enchanting tale. It is full of magic and wonder. This book is the epitome of imagination and childhood fancy.
The Plot: Seven-year-old Sara Crewe has always been a princess at heart, as well as a princess in her own, wealthy home in India with her loving father. When her father decides to invest in a business venture, he takes little Sara London to Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies. There she is envied and adored by her fellow pupils. She begins to find her place in the school, making friends, and telling fantastical stories, until news of her father’s passing yanks her from the fantasy she has created. Left penniless and without care, Miss Minchin decides to keep her as “charity” and forces her to move in to the attic with the servant girl Becky. Working and living as a beggar weighs heavily on her heart and her fancy of pretending to be a princess. Can she overcome the obstacles life has thrown at her and prove that all girls truly are princesses in their own rights?
“Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.” (Burnett, p. 108).
A Little Princess has always been one of my all time favorites stories (and favorite childhood movie). I love the morals portrayed in the story and the imagery the author uses to make you feel like you are in London during this time frame. I am in awe of the fantastical imagination that Sara has and I love the childhood nostalgia the book emanates. The characters are well written and I have always loved the faerie-tale like feel of the story.
“She liked books more than anything else, and was, in fact, always inventing stories of beautiful things, and telling them to herself.” (Burnett, p. 8).
Before we discuss the characters, let me talk about the morals and theme of the story. A Little Princess is known most for having the theme that all girls are princesses no matter their appearances or wealth. This is such an important theme, especially in this day and age, when girls are so focused on their appearances and social media statuses. Girls are so mean to each other, and a lot of girls think they are better than others. This book teaches young girls to value themselves and to believe in their self worth. Some amazing morals found in this book are: to treat others with respect, help those in need, pay it forward, and to never give up. Sara lived the life of a spoiled, rich girl, but never once acted like one. She treated those around her with kindness, even when they did not deserve it, and, even though she felt like giving up at times, she never did.
“There is nothing so nice as supposing. It’s almost like being a fairy. If you suppose anything hard enough it seems as if it were real.” (Burnett, p. 60).
Sara Crewe is a beautiful, intelligent, lovable little girl. She is kind, caring, and selfless. She is full of imagination and personality, and is most definitely a true princess at heart. Her character is proven time and again when she does things that seem too wise and mature for a seven-year-old to do, such as taking little Lottie under her wing when she realizes how badly she misses her deceased mother, befriending the servant girl Becky when she is told not to friend those beneath her, and giving her food to a beggar child even thought she is hungry. We could all take a lesson from Sara on how to treat others and I think we would all be happier if we could use our imaginations the way she can.
“She was a child full of imaginings and whimsical thoughts, and one of her fancies was that there would be a great deal of comfort in even pretending that Emily was alive…” (Burnett, p. 18).
Miss Minchin, head mistress of the school, is a horrid, ugly woman. She spoils Sara thinking that it will earn Captain Crewe’s respect, therefore causing him to pay her more money. She praises Sara in the presence of others, not because she actually believes her praise, but to better her status in the eyes of the other pulpils’ parents. She is selfish and cruel, the only reason she allows Sara to stay in the attic as a servant is because she is worried about her reputation if she throws her out on the streets.
“She was very like her house, Sara felt: tall and dull, and respectable and ugly. She had large, cold, fishy eyes, and a large, cold fishy smile.” (Burnett, p. 10).
Ermengarde St John is such a lovable, contrasting character to Sara. Though she shares the same kind, selfless qualities, she is different in appearance and mannerisms. Ermengarde does not share the ability to pretend and imagine as Sara does, thus she becomes enamored with Sara’s stories. She doesn’t carry the confidence and the quick learning like Sara, but she makes up for it with her ability to become a caring friend with a big heart.
“He’ll like it if I learn anything in any way,” said rueful Ermengarde…”Perhaps,” she said, “to be able to learn things quickly isn’t everything, To be kind is worth a great deal to other people.” (Burnett, p. 136).
This truly is a beautiful, magical story. It will forever hold a place in my heart and I hope it continues to spark kindness and imagination in the hearts of others. The morals and theme of the story bring tears to my eyes and I will always love the beauty and enchantment of Sara’s character and her fantastical stories and “pretending”.
And to leave you with a little something I learned while writing my review; the actress that played Sara Crewe in the movie grew up to become a real life princess Sara Crewe, kind, selfless personality and all.