A Little Princess

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Hardcover, 2014

Call number



Puffin Books (2014), 320 pages


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Bookish_Belle
This review originally appeared at Belle's Bookshelf

I hate to say it, but I was disappointed with this book.

I should note before I go any further that my opinion was probably doomed from the outset by high expectations, and it was pretty much impossible for me to be fair. Because, you see, while I
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never read this book as a child, I watched the 1995 movie adaptation obsessively and also enjoyed the 1939 version, PLUS have a special place in my heart for Burnett's The Secret Garden - both the book and movie versions. So, like I said, my expectations were pretty damn high - and it was hard for me not to compare this book to all those other things.

While it told the story I was expecting - of a kind little girl named Sara being sent to a boarding school by her loving father, who then finds herself suddenly friendless and penniless, having to use her inner strength and imagination to overcome her lot - I was surprised at how different it was from the movies. There was one glaring plot point that I'd assumed was an intrinsic part of the story, because it appears in both film versions (despite them being very different in other ways), and I was shocked and disappointed that it was actually absent from the book. But I tried to be fair and get over that (after all, it's not the book's fault the movie versions changed its story) and instead focus on the magical and whimsical aspects of the plot that I love. Occasionally I succeeded, but unfortunately more often than not my attention was dragged back to things that really annoyed me.

For instance, the way the book dealt with race and servants. I know I shouldn't judge it by modern standards, but it was hard not to get irritated at the way poor Becky was treated - even by those who were supposedly kind to her. Similarly, it was difficult not to be disgusted by the descriptions of India and its inhabitants, and Sara's reflection that they were once her slaves - this, coming from a supposedly noble girl!

Which brings me to Sara herself. The little princess drove me nuts. Which in itself annoyed me - I wanted to like her SO badly (She reads! She loves stories and imagining things! She's smart! She's brave!) - but the more time I spent with her, the more I disliked her. She was just so perfect that she didn't seem real; on the rare occasions she showed "wickedness" (the few times I started to like her again), she quickly reined herself in. I know she's supposed to be an admirable character, with traits to aspire to, and I did like the message that positive thinking and kindness can be their own rewards, but it was just rammed down my throat so hard that I almost sympathised with the awful Miss Minchin. Who could blame her for wanting to bring Little Miss Perfect down a peg or two?!

I feel terrible saying all this because, like I said, I loved the story growing up and I'm surprised at how little I loved it after finally reading it. Of course, it wasn't awful - there's still the magic and whimsy there, and the story itself is enchanting. But with such an archetypal heroine, what should have been just my cup of tea was way too sweet for my tastes.
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LibraryThing member allureofbooks
I’m not sure why I waited so long to read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but I’m kicking myself! Sara Crewe is up there with the most enchanting characters ever created. She reminded me so much of Anne Shirley, who has always been a favorite of mine. They were both orphans and
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both used their imaginations to help them get through difficult situations. They were also both old souls, and this aspect of Sara’s personality is actually pointed out on the first page of the book:

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 Sara 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.

After growing up in India, Sara’s father feels like he must send her to boarding school in Paris so she can learn to be a proper young lady. She does not want to leave her father, but she does so gracefully – as she does everything. After establishing herself as an even-tempered, sweet and generous friend to everyone at the school, she receives horrible news that changes everything. However, even when everything is taken away from her…she remains positive and charming. She and fellow servant girl Lottie manage to survive by sticking together – and their determination ends up paying off! I should probably mention that I grew up watching (and loving!) the 1997 movie version of the book, so I was ridiculously surprised by how the book ends – the movie changed things up big time!

Even though this is a classic book with no real fantasy or paranormal aspects, this book is a fairy tale of the best kind. If you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should! Escape into Sara’s world where nothing is so bad that it cannot be imagined away.
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LibraryThing member rainpebble
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
Rags to riches stories are a common enough trope, but A Little Princess turns that narrative on its head. Little Sara Crewe, who has been given everything by her dear papa, is sent to a London board schooling, as was the custom amongst the wealthy in England at the time. There, everyone - children
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and adults alike - marvel at her beautiful things and declare her "a little princess." Contrary to the stereotype about rich children, Sara is not spoiled and bratty, but rather is considerate and polite. She makes friends with the other children at school, particularly with those who are overlooked by others - slow Ermengarde, tantrum-throwing little Lottie, and scullery maid Becky - instead of aligning herself with the school "mean girls" Lavinia and Jessie. Sara is also clever and imaginative, which sometimes causes others to view her as a bit peculiar, although overall she is well liked. She has a tendency to become solemn and philosophical, and sometimes wonders if she would be so nice if circumstances had been different and she had been born without wealth and privilege. Perhaps, she surmises, she is only kind because when you have everything, there is no reason to be unkind.

One day, everything changes for small Sara, and she is given the opportunity to see just what sort of person she is when the tangible goods are taken from her life. On her 11th birthday, news reaches the boarding school that her beloved father has died and due to his unwise business investments, she is now not only orphaned but also penniless. The boarding school headmistress, Miss Minchin, who never really liked Sara as a person but only for her money, is apoplectic with having Sara's care foisted upon her. She responds by taking all of Sara's possessions away from her and forcing her to become a servant at the school.

But all is not lost. Sara's cleverness and kindness served her well in the past and continue to do so, even in her reduced circumstances. Those who loved her for these qualities continue to do so and look out for her well-being to the best of their ability. Little Sara is indeed a model for us all with her kindness even in the face of destitution and misuse.

Still, at times it becomes a tragedy of error, almost Shakespearean with mistaken identities and just missed opportunities for enlightenment, as Sara and her father's friend/business partner Mr. Carrisford are literally next door from one another but kept apart due to their ignorance of each other's significance. Meanwhile, poor Sara suffers the ill effects of poverty and misuse while Mr. Carrisford is wracked with guilt over not being able to find Sara. The narrative makes this time period seem to past relatively quickly but at the end it is noted more than once that the full time period is two years. This is hard, long time indeed for this poor little girl.

In true fairy tale like fashion, Sara's fortunes eventually reverse and turn out for the better while Miss Minchin and the mean girls of the school get the chance to re-evaluate their actions. While this isn't the reality I've known, it's nice to live in this world for a little while, imagining that all good people eventually get their just desserts and those unkind people will eventually be reprimanded. It was perhaps for this reason that this book was a childhood favorite of mine.

Re-reading this book as an adult, I did notice that there are some troubling depictions of people of lower classes, non-Anglo ethnic backgrounds, and less than ideal body figures. But these aren't overwhelming and you have to take the book as a product of its time. Ram Dass talking about he was always watching the child as she sleeps, peering in through her window, and knowing her every coming and going, is also a bit creepy to re-read as an adult but his intentions are the best as he does this to learn what she needs. This ends up being of great benefit to Sara during the worse of her troubles.

One final note: Although I still own my hard copy of this book from childhood, I opted to re-read the book as an audio version this time. The audio narrator, Justine Eyre, was stupendous and I highly recommend this version for the audiophile.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
I absolutely adored The Secret Garden, so I read this, too. When one is a girl, one can believe such fantasies.
LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
That one should never see a film adaptation of a book, without first having read the original, is an idea so unconsciously accepted in my circle of family and friends that it usually admits no debate. But for every rule there are exceptions, and happily for my childhood, Frances Hodgson Burnett's A
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Little Princess was one of them. I had little taste for sentimental fiction as a child (oh, the irony!), and might have remained indifferent to Burnett's work, had I not seen the brilliant Wonderworks television adaptation of the novel. Released in 1987, it is the only decent film version ever made, and prompted me to read the book, followed in quick succession by The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Re-read countless times since, they have given me many hours of pleasure, winning a permanent place among my favorite books...

The story of a young girl who comes face to face with the cruel, mercenary side of society, A Little Princess has always struck me as a tale of moral courage, simultaneously conventional and subversive. Sara Crewe is the daughter of privilege, despite her temporary poverty and genuine suffering, but she also exhibits a very democratic sensibility, and her behavior is not dictated by monetary concerns. She is as much a friend to poor Becky before the loss of her fortune, as she is afterward; just as she is with Ermengarde. She is, moreover, somewhat disdainful of adult authority, as exemplified by her relationship with Miss Minchin, whose initial "friendliness" she (rightfully) mistrusts. Successful as a portrait of a particular time and place, Burnett's A Little Princess also has qualities that give it a decidedly modern feeling...

Addendum: Having just reread this childhood favorite, for our January discussion over at A Thrilling Term at Goodreads: The Girls' School-Story Group, I was struck by the many plot elements that are common in the genre, from the central conceit of a student whose circumstances are greatly reduced, and must work at the school (think Juliet Carrick, in The School at the Chalet, although Madge Bettany is no Miss Minchin), to the idea of one girl who plays "mother" to the younger ones (think L.T. Meade's The Little School-Mothers: A Story for Girls). My new-found familiarity with the genre definitely increased my appreciation of Burnett's classic, which now seemed, not only to be an immensely satisfying story, in its own right, but an interesting example of its genre.
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LibraryThing member Mozzie
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
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charming stories. Wouldn't it be grand?
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LibraryThing member katietwa08
During a week when I was very sick, my mom read this story to me. I had chosen the big, enhanced version of this story complete with beautifully detailed pictures. This story insipred me as I watched a young girl with nothing take whatever came her way and make something beautiful out of it. The
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twist in the end is sure to fill a few hearts as well.
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LibraryThing member Cait86
Sara Crewe is a bright, imaginative seven-year-old when she arrives at Miss Minchen's Select Seminary for Young Ladies. Her father, Captain Crewe, is a very rich man, and he and his daughter are the best of friends. Sara has spent the first seven years of her life living in India, but now the time
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has come for her to attend school in London. At Miss Minchen's Sara is treated like a princess, and is given everything she could ever want; being treated as a princess does not spoil Sara, but instead causes her to be a friendly, generous little girl. Her imaginings delight her fellow pupils, and she treats the scullery-maid, Becky, with such kindness as Becky has never known. One day, tragedy strikes Sara, and she is left a penniless beggar destined to serve the cruel Miss Minchen for the rest of her life. Can Sara overcome this adversity? Can she remain a true princess at heart?

A Little Princess is another book that took me down memory lane. Sara's story is one that I read over and over as a little girl, and it was a pleasure to read it again after so many years. Burnett's depiction of dreary London pulls in the reader, and Sara's hardships will make your heart break.

That said, Sara is maybe a little too perfect - she is extremely intelligent, puts others before herself, refuses to be goaded into a rage, and continuously puts a positive spin on her horrid existence. Just once I would have liked to see Sara say something mean, or put herself before others - something to make her more of a real, believable character. Sara is always imagining fairy-stories, and Burnett essentially gives Sara her own fairy-story to live. Sure she has hardships, but she is just so unfailingly positive, and the general tone of the book tells the reader that a happy ending is definitely forthcoming. To be honest, it was kind of annoying after awhile.

However, A Little Princess is enjoyable to read, and a great book for children. It teaches readers never to give up, and to remain positive, for life will work out in the end. This is a nice lesson to learn - but it really isn't that accurate to real life, is it?
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LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
A Little Princess is a classic story of a rich little girl who is put under the care of a bitter, selfish schoolhouse matron. At first, the girl is treated as a star pupil; but when her father dies a ruined man, she is cruelly forced to become a servant of the schoolhouse—but her sweet, vibrant
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nature keeps her alive during these hard times. I have seen quite a few movie adaptations, but the book is much better than the movies. This is a good book for people of all ages to read.
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LibraryThing member Apolline
A few months ago I had a sudden memory of a TV-series I liked as a child. Unfortunately I did not remember much of the plot, except that it was about a girl living in some form of orphanage, apparently poor and with a doll as company. Then a little while later, someone mentioned this book. So, I
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went to check it out. Now, after I read it, I am 99% sure the TV-series was based on this book.

And what a delightful little book it is. Frances Hodgson Burnett actually wrote three versions of this story; a novella published as a series in a magazine, a play, and a novel. The reason she rewrote it, was that more and more of Sara Crewe’s story appeared to her while writing the play. Burnett was then asked by her publishers to write “the whole story of Sara Crewe”.

Sara Crewe grew up in India with her father, Captain Crewe. Even though they were immensely rich, it was her father’s opinion that India was no places for children to live. Since Sara’s mother was already dead, she was placed in Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies. There, Sara acted as the show pupil, until her father died and left her with no money. Miss Minchin made her a little servant, letting her share the cold attic with poor Becky. Sara is left with nothing but her doll Emily and her vivid imagination to cope with her new life.

This story is lovely, enchanting, heart wrecking and warm all at once. Definitely a must read for young girls who like to pretend, who have colourful imaginations or who wants to be a princess. I particularly liked this following quote, which I presume most of you will think familiar.

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.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
What I like best about this novel is that Sara has figured out, from a very young age, that what really matters is what you are inside, not what you have or do. The outside of the story - the "cinderella" story, if you will - is entertaining and somewhat colored by fantasy, but the message is what
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makes the story stand out. I love that Sara is so kind to those whom everyone else overlooks.
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LibraryThing member molliewatts
Sara Crew arrives at boarding school rich and pampered. She has more dresses and dolls than any of the other girls combined, yet she is more than willing to share and she shares often. She even makes friends with the scullery maid, Becky. When her father dies suddenly and Sara is left penniless,
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she is forced to turn over all her lovely things and live in the attic as a scullery maid. The other girls will not even talk to her anymore, and she must now rely on her imagination to see her through the long, cold days and nights. When a sickly stranger moves into the house next door, Sara's fortunes look as if they might improve and she is in for an unexpected surprise, as is everyone else.

This was another favorite of mine as a child. I couldn't get enough of the "riches to rags and back again" story. It is all about making the best of one's situation and always having a bright outlook on life, no matter how bleak your situation. I think my favorite scene from the book is when Sara finds her dingy attic room made-over.
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LibraryThing member cephaloparty
This book means so much to me. It's one of the few books to deal with make-believe in a respectful, realistic, and positive way. It's also a wonderful book in that it doesn't sugar-coat the life of a child into idyllic scenes without pain or hardship--a very good thing for children of broken homes
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to find solace and a strong, capable heroine. True, the ending of the story is rather neat; but a happy ending does not mean the story is without worth and value. Sara was and still is my hero, showing me that even with nothing I still had stories to help me through, that kindness and royalty are a way of life, and that everyone is a story.
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LibraryThing member cltnae
Thoughts: This story is a good story about love and loss. I liked this book because it shows a way to cope with the loss of a loved one and how even though the girl lost everything she was still able to be kind to others. This book has great values that children should learn when growing up. I
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enjoyed this book very much I thought that is shows how resiliant children are. When I was reading this book it was like a was there in the school experiencing everything with Sarah.

Summary: A young girl who grew up in India and moves to France to go to school while her father goes to war. To keep herself intertained she makes up stories to tell the other girls at the school. One day a message comes that her father has been killed in the war. She has nowhere else to go, so the owner of the school makes her a house maid. She has to clean the other girls rooms and take wood to there fireplaces. Eventually some of the girls start to speak to her again and she tells them more stories of India.

Classroom Extensions:
1) I would have this book on my self so that my students could read it on their own time. After the student read the book I would have him/her do a story map.
2) I would have my student write out what the main idea of the story, and how their thinking changed through the book.
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LibraryThing member piya2
The girl named sara was rich girl at first.But her father died suddenly.And she became poor.She had to wark from morning till night as servant.One day she met a man.He is a very kind.And he is...
This story made me happy.This book worth reading!
LibraryThing member tygerlilli
My mother gave me my copy of this book when I was in third grade. I can remember carrying the book with me everywhere, reading it over and over. I think the story still stands up as classic "girl's" literature. (Side note: The image of London both in this story and in all of Dickens' novels was so
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vivid in my mind that when I finally got to London as an adult, I was almost shocked that there weren't horse drawn carriages and gaslights on all the streets.)
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LibraryThing member olyra
a very special book, one which i felt sad about when it ended.
LibraryThing member mldg
When faced with adversity, a little rich girl (Sarah Crewe), manifests the noblest characteristics of a princess. Happy ending.
LibraryThing member chibimajo
I read this book every year. It's about Sarah, doted upon by her father, who gets sent to England to boarding school. While there, her father invests all his fortune in diamond mines, contracts a fever and dies thinking everything is lost. Sarah then becomes an poor orphan until her father's friend
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finds her and returns her fortune.
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LibraryThing member nandelh
I loved this book. Frances Hodgson Burnett has writen a heartwarming story of a young girl. Losing her father. And being placed in a school for little girls. It is here where she learns the truth about some people and their hard ways. She learns to act like a little princess. She learns about
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caring for others and others learn to care about her.
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LibraryThing member mayana
Sara Crewe is a very rich little girl.
But her father dead,she was poor.
I was impressed with Sara's kindness and humility.
LibraryThing member sprunger12
This was the book I chose as my classic. I had read it as a child and remembered loving the movie. I was surprised how quickly I was drawn into the story. I really enjoyed reading it, although my one complaint is that the character of Sara Crewe was not a very realistic character because despite
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the awful things that were done to her by Miss Minchin, she never complained or stood up for herself. I did really enjoy the book and found the ending both frustrating and satisfying.
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LibraryThing member Mialro
A riches to rags to riches story, this great children's classic is about a privileged girl who is able to hold on to hope through imagination despite terrible circumstances. Beautifully written, charming story set in Victorian England.
LibraryThing member koalamom
A wonderful story that takes little Sara Crewe from riches to rags and back again and through it all she never loses her optimism and love of life and somehow, even in some small insignificant way, she manages to find the good in all and all come to care for her, even if just a little




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