A Little Princess

Written by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

London, 1905. Sara Crewe, heiress to a diamond mine, leaves India and her beloved Papa to go to Miss Minchin’s School for Young Ladies. Sara is a courageous child, determined to behave as her father would want. She works hard, but Miss Minchin dislikes her, especially when Sara befriends the half-starved skivvy, Becky.

When she’s 11, her father dies and his fortune disappears. Sara is now a pauper. All her beautiful clothes and toys are sold, and she is forced to earn her keep as a student-teacher. Lonely and ill-treated, Sara’s imagination comes to her rescue. She pretends her attic bedroom is a cell in the Bastille during the French Revolution, and she makes friends with the attic rat. She ignores the taunts of her former school-mates and tries to behave like the little princess her father called her. One day, she gives a bun to a beggar-girl who is even hungrier than she is, and this small act of kindness begins a chain of events which transforms her life.

I loved this book as a child and, re-reading it, I can see why. I was a scribbling child, always writing stories, and a book where the heroine created an imaginary world that helped to transform her awful life through the power of the imagination appealed to me very much.

The Edwardian upstairs-downstairs world depicted in this well-loved children’s classic has long gone; even so, I think it would still appeal to an imaginative little girl. For 8+.