A Little Princess

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Book Review

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is about a young girl named Sara Crewe, who becomes a servant at an English boarding school after her father’s death.

Plot Summary

Sara Crewe has lived in India with her father most of her young life. Now, hoping to give her a proper education, Papa brings her to Miss Minchin’s school for girls in London. He pays handsomely for her to have her own suite at the school and buys her expensive clothes. He even purchases an expensive doll, Emily, and has fancy outfits custom made for her. Sara and Papa are devastated when they have to say goodbye to one another, but Sara tries to make the best of her new situation. Despite her wealth, she is a kind, humble child.

Miss Minchin develops an immediate dislike for Sara. So does a jealous older student named Lavinia. Most of the rest of the pupils adore Sara. The intelligent and clever girl tells them stories and shares her belongings. She befriends an obese, simple-minded girl named Ermengard, a spoiled younger student named Lottie and the poor scullery maid named Becky. Sara likes to pretend she is a princess, though she never flaunts her wealth. The other girls lovingly refer to her as a princess because of her grace and generosity.

Lavinia and Miss Minchin become even more bitter when Sara learns her father has invested in a diamond mine in India. When Miss Minchin receives word that Sara’s father has died, she promptly strips the girl of all her finery and makes her work for the school. She moves Sara to a dark, rat-infested attic room next to Becky. Sara runs errands, teaches younger children and often goes hungry.

A large neighbor family notices Sara and often wonders about her. An ailing Englishman, Mr. Carrisford, comes to stay with them. Carrisford reveals he and his business partner had a misunderstanding after both invested their fortunes in a diamond mine. The partner believed Carrisford had taken all of his money and fled. He died before Carrisford could tell him the real story, that they had both become extremely rich. Carrisford vows he will not rest until he finds his partner’s daughter and ensures she receives her rightful fortune.

It’s two years before Carrisford realizes Sara is his partner’s daughter. In the meantime, he often sees her in her attic window and observes how badly she is treated by the headmistress. Carrisford and his agile servant secretly buy bedding and food to keep Sara warm and fed. The servant sneaks in through the skylight while Sara sleeps to deliver these gifts. Sara shares the wealth with Becky, whom she pretends is her fellow prisoner in the Bastille.

One day, Carrisford’s pet monkey gets loose. Sara returns him to the large family’s home, and Carrisford discovers Sara’s identity. Once Carrisford explains he never abandoned or cheated her father, she lovingly accepts him as her friend and guardian. She uses her new, even-greater wealth to help feed hungry street children.

Christian Beliefs

Sara sometimes mentions that her mother is in heaven and tells the girls stories of what heaven might be like.

Other Belief Systems

Carrisford brings a Buddha statue, amongst his other pieces, to England from India. There’s no indication it is more than a piece of art to him.

Authority Roles

Sara’s mother died, and her loving Papa cared for her in India. He ensures Sara lacks nothing at her new school. Miss Minchin resents the wealthy new student who speaks French better than she. She restrains herself while Sara’s father is alive, and then relishes making life difficult for the orphaned girl. The heartsick Mr. Carrisford refuses to give up his search for his dead partner’s child. When he and Sara are finally united, his health improves, and he becomes a loving guardian.

Profanity & Violence

None

Sexual Content

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments

Criticism: Some critics have accused this book of having racist undertones because of Papa Crewe’s dealings in India, the mention of Indian servants and the fact that Sara was brought to England because the climate of India was “bad for children.” Sara has fond memories of India. She’s a gracious little girl who is not prejudicial toward anyone based on race or class.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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