Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Talk :: A Little Princess

Currently.

The Little Princess is one of those classics that I some how managed to miss in my childhood. My copy of The Secret Garden was worn and tattered, but that was my only exposure to Frances Hodgson Burnett's writing. I have to admit now to a small feeling of regret that I didn't read it until this month! (I felt that way about the Betsy Tacy books when I discovered them several years ago). However, finally reading it in 2014 means that I got to share it with my girls which was a delight. My girls had actually watched the movie a couple of years ago with their Dad, but I had somehow missed it. While they remembered bits and pieces of the story, I was unfamiliar with more than the barest minimum.

This is the story of Sara Crewe, the well-to-do daughter of a British solider stationed in India. Her father decides that she needs a little more structure to her education and sends her to Miss Minchin's Seminary and boarding school in London. As her father is quite wealthy, she is given quite a few extra privileges at the school - her own private room and parlor, a carriage and pony of her own to take her wherever she wants to go, and a maid to take care of her clothing and serve her. This causes some (a lot of!) animosity on the part of both Miss Minchin (the headmistress) as well as many of the girls in the school. You would think that Sara would be spoiled and insufferable, but that isn't the case at all. She's kind to the other girls and generously shares what she has with them. She is also a master storyteller and most evenings find her spinning tales of India, enchantments and princesses to her schoolmates.

However, you can see coming that tragedy is going to befall poor Sarah. Her father invests all their money with a best friend and in some risky diamond mines. Sadly, the mines fail and Sarah's father becomes sick at heart and eventually contracts an illness and dies. When the news of this reaches Miss Minchin, she is furious. Her star pupil is now penniless and left on her hands with no other family to care for her. She puts Sarah to work, takes away all her possessions, and moves her to the attic to live with the scullery maid. Sarah never complains. She does her work and still tries to be kind to the girls in the school. Her philosophy seems to be summed up at the end of one of the chapters when she reaches her very lowest point and it doesn't seem that her life can get much worse than it is right then:
But in Sara's hungry eyes the old light had begun to glow and transform her world for her. Here in the attic - with the cold night outside - with the afternoon in the sloppy streets barely passed - with the memory of the awful unfed look in the beggar child's eyes not yet faded - this simple, cheerful thing had happened like a thing of magic.

She caught her breath.

'Somehow, something always happened,' she cried, 'just before things get to the very worst. It is as if the Magic did it. If I could only just remember that always. The worst thing never quite comes.'
I'll leave my book report off here, because if you haven't read it, I don't want to spoil how it ends for you! Needless to say, the girls and I were quite smitten with the story and I had to invoke my own rule of not reading ahead in the book to find out what happens. I will say we were all quite pleased with out it turned out. : ) If you have little girls, please pick up a copy of this and read this with them this summer.

Linking up with Amy at Hope is the Word for Read-Aloud Thursday.

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