WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Type of Book: Classic
Basic Plot: A young child named Sara Crewe is taken to an academy in England. She is a polite, intelligent, and rich girl that lives a pleasant, sheltered life until her father dies. After finding her father had lost all his money, she is left to the responsibilities of the jealous and cruel Miss Minchin, the schools headmistress.
Plot and Writing: 4 ½/5 Very Well-Written: A Little Princess is has all the things a child’s book could need. Its descriptions are pretty and simple. The author’s plot is very basic, though it is presented sweetly and elegantly. It does not drag on and on like some classics do in description, but it is not short, choppy, and childish either. It has a good flow, going between subjects and paragraphs smoothly. Mrs. Burnett also develops the characters very well, and makes it clear what their characters and personalities are.
Moral: 4/5 Good Application: To endure the hard times. Sara earlier in the book wonders with Ermengarde, her “best friend”, if she would really be an awful child if bad things happened in her life and if she is kind only because she is so rich. She goes through her trials and concludes she is not as wonderful as people said she was, but her actions show differently as she chooses to treat others with respect and kindness despite the abuse she receives and eventually is rescued from her life at the academy.
Overall: 4/5: I could recommend this book best to girls between the ages 8-12 as the ones who would enjoy it most. Many teenagers and adults may also enjoy it as well; I admit it is one of my favorite books of my childhood. I believe it would best be enjoyed by young girls, because it sympathizes with their thoughts, imaginations, and spirit.
Sexual or Inappropriate Content: 0/5 None
Violence: 2/5 Slightly Violent: Lavinia, a thirteen year old girl, slaps Lottie, a four year old. Miss Minchin threatens to whip, Lottie for throwing a temper tantrum and her sister, Miss Amelia to shake and slap her. Neither of them carries out their threats. Lavinia claims she wishes to slap Lottie and Sara says she wants to slap Lavinia and nearly does, though they both refrain from doing so. Miss Minchin is boxes Sara’s ears once and Becky’s, the scullery maid, twice. Sara recalls when a poor woman did that to a king. Miss Minchin angrily shakes Sara not to much later in the book. Miss Minchin is also on the verge of boxing her own sister’s ears near the end of the book.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 1/5 One or Two Light Utterances: The Lords name is taken in vain twice.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Slightly Emotional: There are several emotional scenes when and after her father dies, but they were not made to be horribly emotional or intense scenes.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Suggestive: Sara’s ayah is said to “worship” her. The young children call her a “goddess” and the author says her doll resembles one when it is sitting in its chair. Sara tells Lottie stories about what she believes heaven is like and later Lavinia rebukes her. Sara’s only reply was that Revelation had plenty of stories (which makes them sound like that’s all they are or that what she says is just as legit) about heaven and that Lavinia might not find out what heavens like if her behavior doesn’t improve. When a man from India moves in he brings idols in his house and Sara admits her family had idols as decorations. Despite that he might have them for the same reason Sara and Becky are absorbed and fascinated at the idea of him being pagan. Buddha is called a god with a lowercase “g”. An Indian man is so surprised when Sara speaks his language that he believes it was a blessing from his gods.
Magic: 1/5 Slight References: Sara makes up a story about mermaids, and she pretends her doll can walk around and do things when she is not around. Her attic room is described as “fairyland” after it is decorated. She also wonders at first if she or the room is “bewitched” because it happened so strangely. She finds the happenings so strange that it is mentioned many times in similarity to a “fairy story.” She calls her imagination and all the things concerning it “The Magic.” Some children call Sara a un-fairy princess. No actual magic happens in the book. It is all figments of the children’s imagination.
Others: Pride is tended to be shown as a virtue in a lot of places, but often this pride is more so self respect and longsuffering.
Overall: 2/5 Child Appropriate: I was surprised to reread this and find so much more violence and religious issues than I remember when I read it years ago. I was especially shocked at the misuse of the Lord’s name. The book content overall is not shocking or obscene though.
(This review does not include commentary, forwards, or afterwords any version may have.)