The Lost Prince

Written by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This terrific novel was first published in 1915 and has all the hallmarks of fiction written before WW1: beauty of expression, pace, adventure and, a rare virtue in these cynical days, a belief in the essential goodness of ordinary people.

British-American author Hodgson Burnett wrote best-selling children’s novels throughout the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th and is probably best known today for Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden. Like those, the idea at the heart of The Lost Prince is one that has perennial appeal for children. Here, destiny will reveal the hero’s true identity. Marco and his street urchin friend, The Rat, both no older than thirteen, are sent on a secret mission across Europe by Marco’s charismatic father, a patriot of the fictional and war-torn country Samavia.

The boys are the Bearers of the Sign and, like King Arthur, the lost prince will return to save his people in their time of need.  Marco’s identity may be guessed quite early by some young readers, but this will not detract from the excitement of the journey to the final triumphant scene when the truth is revealed.  This is a story that scores in many ways, showing, without preaching. why history is important, why good manners are the mark of heroes, and how courage in the face of uncertainty is something that can be learned.

Eva (6) and Flora (4) adored it and even made a map of Samavia.  Their only caveat was that there were no girls in it, but this provided an opportunity to talk about how customs change and now girls can be heroes, too. It will appeal to 4-14 year olds.