I chose A Little Princess for the category of Children’s Classic for the Back to the Classics 2015 challenge hosted at Books and Chocolate. I am fairly sure I watched on television as a kid a movie version of A Little Princess with Shirley Temple, but I don’t remember much from it. I love Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, a book I first read at maybe 9 or 10 years old. However, I don’t know how I would feel about it if I had read it only as an adult; I can still read The Secret Garden with my child-like eyes and ignore the more dated racist and classist aspects of it. I was unable to do that with A Little Princess, unfortunately. I am sure, however, that the 9 year old me would have really enjoyed this story of triumph over adversity.
The story is about Sara Crewe, an English girl who travels from India to England at age 6 or so to attend boarding school, because the British upper classes didn’t feel it appropriate to educate their children in the colonies. Sara is not only fabulously wealthy; she is also intelligent and kind. She soon makes friends with the downtrodden and misunderstood in the boarding school since that is just how she rolls. Sara particularly excels at imagining things and she regales the other little girls with her stories. When people are unkind to Sara, she pretends she is a princess and treats the unkind people with grace and compassion, because she imagines this is how royalty would behave. The headmistress secretly hates her, but chokes her dislike back because promoting Sara to prospective parents is good advertising for the school and a couple of the older girls don’t like Sara out of jealousy but they can’t do too much about it as long as Sara is the star pupil. When Sara’s fortunes take a turn for the worse, however, she finds out just who her true friends are and just how much she will have to draw on her imagination and her inner princess to survive.
As I wrote above, it was hard for me to overlook some of the more dated aspects of the book. Also Sara is just a little too perfect and a little too put upon to be believable to me now. But I can see how an adult reader could still find the magic in this story; I saw it too, but I also saw the man behind the curtain.
I kind of wish I had sprung for the Penguin Classics edition which should have an introduction or afterward, but I opted instead to borrow and read a very PINK library copy of the Harper Collins hardback edition pictured above, which had really beautiful full page color illustrations by Tasha Tudor as well as black and white sketches above each chapter.