Book Review: A Little Princess

Now, I know what you’re thinkingA Little Princess? Isn’t that the movie with the little girl who tells stories about India and tells the evil Miss Minchin that all girls are princesses? Yes, dear reader, yes it is. And while that movie is near and dear to my heart, today I’m going to tell you why the book is so much better (fair warning—this review is spoiler-rific, but the book was published in 1905).

In the 1995 movie, the big message is that all girls are princesses, whether they be poor or rich, ugly or beautiful. Being a princess is something that all girls are; it’s an automatic result of being female. One of the more powerful scenes in the movie is when Sara practically shouts at a speechless Miss Minchin, “All girls are princesses! Didn’t your father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?” And while this sends a pretty good message to young girls about their inherent human dignity, it’s a very different characterization of what it means to be a princess than in the 1905 novel. In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s original version, pretending to be a princess is Sara Crewe’s favorite private daydream. She is embarrassed when her nasty classmate Lavinia tries to make fun of her for it, but Sara stands her ground and defends her pasttime. For Sara, being a princess is about being kind to everyone she meets, being courteous and polite even when people are rude or cruel to you, and being generous to those who are less fortunate than she.

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