Goodreads: A Little Princess
Seven-year-old Sara Crewe arrives at Miss Minchin’s London boarding school for girls as if she is a little princess. Her doting father denies her nothing and she enjoys a lavish wardrobe, an expensive doll, and a room all to herself. Then disaster strikes and Sara finds herself alone and penniless. Does she have the moral fortitude to act like a true princess?
A Little Princess loses nothing of its charm with age. From the moment I stepped through Miss Minchin’s boarding school doors with Sara I found myself swept into the past, eager to reacquaint myself with all the girls and to become their friend anew. From spoiled Lottie to faithful Ermengarde, it is hard not to fall in love and to share in their small joys and sorrows. But disliking the villains is of course half the fun and, fortunately, Lavinia’s snobbery proves just as disagreeable as ever while Miss Minchin’s actions continue to inspire loathing. The story might be a little cliche, but it has heart enough to draw readers in regardless.
While meeting the cast of characters is fun, it is the message of the story that truly makes A Little Princess a heartwarming tale. Miss Minchin, of course, mistakes the characterization of Sara as a “princess” as meaning she is rich, refined, and popular, but Sara herself defines a princess as one who is kind to others–no matter what. Thus, this reverse rags-to-riches story defies reader expectations by illustrating how misfortune can sometimes prove fruitful. Sara found it easy to act kindly when she had everything she wanted and others bowed to her every whim, but controlling her temper and her tongue is a different matter when she finds herself starving, beaten, and wrongly accused of various transgressions. Readers participate in Sara’s struggle while they try to think charitably toward Miss Minchin, even as they watch her maltreat anyone who cannot offer her wealth or social prestige. But the struggle is surely worth it.
For in this story, a rich young girl does not simply observe an impoverished girl, throw some money at her and move on, but actually experiences that same life of deprivation. Sara and Becky’s friendship grows so much stronger when Sara is not the only one giving and Becky the only one receiving. Furthermore, while rich Sara used to be generous in giving her money to orphan beggars, poor Sara manages to think of a plan that will help feed orphaned children for as long as they remain hungry. Not until Sara fully understands what the people around her need can she help them in the best way possible. And in doing so, she grows herself.
Revisiting Sara and her friends proved a more delightful experience than I had anticipated, for I was pleased to find that so many of the images that had remained with me really did occur that way, and were not elaborate illusions I had built up from childhood memories. Such a reaction can only mean it’s time to reread The Secret Garden, as well!
*This post is part of the Year of Re-Reading Challenge being hosted by Lianne at Caffeinated Life.