Monday, July 24, 2017

MMGM: A Little Princess

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

Reprint of Tasha Tudor edition from my childhood
A Little Princess

Written by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustration by Tasha Tudor
HarperCollins, 1992 reprint of 1963 edition
Ages 8-12, reading level 4.8
Lexile 250, 336 pp

Poverty, Resourcefulness

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, and odd-looking little girl sat in a cabin with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.

She sat with her feet tucked under her, and leaned against her father, who held her in his arm, as 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 Sarah 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.

A Little Princess is definitely a fairy tale. But though the main character's fortunes may seem implausible, they are in proportion to her losses: not her poverty, but—spoiler alert—the loss of her parents and Indian home. The return of her wealth pales in comparison to the joy of finding a surrogate family.
Each time I read this story I discover something new. There were times in my life when I found Sarah precocious and insufferable, but happily I am back to enjoying her charm. I do wish I could channel a bit more Sarah Crewe when I receive a rejection letter or have to deal with my insurance company.
The book has the flaws typical of its place in history. As with all dated fiction, this book contains some stereotypes. I like to see the positive and learn from the negative. As lamentable as colonialism was, for example, I like to imagine that there were those who genuinely loved the culture and people of their adopted lands. I see Sarah and her father as two of those people. I myself revel in the Indian details and envy Sarah's fluency in Hindi. (My progress is lamentably slow.)
All in all, I believe A Little Princess has much to offer modern children (though probably mostly girls) and can still capture their imaginations. Quite a feat for a book over one hundred years old.

1. You'll find biographical information about the author on Books Tell You Why and Your Dictionary.

2. Check out the Summer Drive-In review of A Little Princess, the movie from July 21, 2017.

3. Cover feast: This book has been published and republished. As an illustrator, I sometimes just want to revel in the variety of xtyles.

Originally serialized,
 then published under the title, Sara Crewe
First Edition, 1905
illustrated by Harold Piffard
Reprint of a cover by Ethel Franklin Betts
Free audio and e-versions from Loyal Books
Adapted by Jennifer Bassett for Oxford Press
Adapted and illustrated version
by Barbara McClintock

4. Below are more reviews of Francis Hodgson Burnett's books by fellow MMGM participants.

A Little Princess
Marsh and Emiline on Monster Ate My Book Report
Mike from Middle Grade Mafioso

The Secret Garden
Joanne of My Brain on Books
Dawn on Project Mayhem
Completely Full Bookshelf

5. If you liked A Little Princess, other MMGM bloggers recommend

Liesl and Po, by Lauren Oliver, reviewed by Myrna on Night Writer.
The Romeo and Juliet Code, by Phoebe Stone, reviewed by Ruth on Readatouille and Mike on Middle Grade Mafioso
The Belgian Twins, by Lucy Fitch Perkins, reviewed by Gabrielle Prendergast.
The Humming Room, by Ellen Potter, reviewed by Andrea on That's Another Story and Dawn on Project Mayhem

The Humming Room,
by Ellen Potter,
Cover by Jason Chan
The Romeo and Juliet Code,
 by Phoebe Stone
The Belgian Twins,
by Lucy Fitch Perkins

View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Visit all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 24, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!


  1. I remember my sisters reading this one but like most boys I would never pick it up. I might finally give it a go after reading your review.

    1. well...yeah. Definitely a girly book. My son doesn't mind the audiobook on road trips. Thanks, Greg.

  2. At least it aged better than books like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm or Daddy Long-Legs!

    1. Never heard of Daddy Longlegs! I've never actually finished Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm.

  3. I read this a year ago for myself. I'd always enjoyed the movies, but the book was even better. I liked the emphasis on being a princess in the sense of being kind and not letting your circumstances bring you down.
    And my son actually enjoyed it too.

    1. My boys listened to it when they were younger without complaint. But it is one of my daughter's childhood favorites. Thanks.

  4. This was one of my family's beloved stories, that my sisters and I read. In truth, I liked others--like Eight Cousins, and Daddy-Long-Legs--better, but I do love Sarah. I suspect it's impossible to read her story and not walk away at least a little inspired.

    1. I absolutely adored Eight Cousins! I can't believe it isn't more popular. Thanks.


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