a little princess

February 16, 2015

I've waited a long time to write a post about 'A Little Princess' by Frances Hodgson Burnett. One of the reasons I started this blog was so that some day I could feature this most lovely of books.

I received my copy when I was 9, and this week is Julia's 9th birthday. So this is one of her presents. I still have my copy and it's in fine condition...but I got another copy to give to Julia because this newest copy has a beautiful feature to it - the hardback cover underneath the book jacket matches the jacket completely! Isn't it so disappointing sometimes to take off a book jacket only to find some dull cover underneath?

I have strong feelings about the fact that I think the only copy people should own is the one illustrated by Tasha Tudor. The Tasha version can be hard to find, but I found mine new in a bookstore that sells both new and used books. I know there are other lovely artistic renderings, but I can't imagine not reading this particular version.

After I bought the book for Julia, I sat with it in my car, waiting for Julia at soccer practice last autumn. I re-read the ending. WITH TEARS ROLLING DOWN MY FACE. Parts of this book are like a sucker punch to the heart, don't you think?

I'm going to imagine that everyone in the known world has read this classic masterpiece, but just in case you haven't read it......

Sara Crewe, the heroine of the tale, is left in a boarding school at age seven. Her beloved father is her only parent and unbelievably wealthy, and although she's separated from him, he makes sure that she wants for nothing. In addition to being materially well endowed, she's also kind, clever, and sensitive. She's so caring and sweet to the other students at her school, that she earns the nickname 'a little princess'.

Sadly, a few years later, the daddy dies - and the headmistress of her school (Miss Minchin, who's cruel and mean and wicked and terrible) loses her mind when she realizes that her golden goose student is not going to lay any more eggs. So she strips Sarah of everything she owns and turns her into a servant at the school, forcing her to live with rats in the school attic. Sarah nearly starves, while living in this wretched state.

Through a complicated series of events (here, read this if you want every last detail of the plot), food and lovely furnishings begin appearing, as if by magic, in her attic hovel. It turns out that her daddy's best friend and business partner has been searching for her for years, and this man's personal assistant has befriended Sarah (not knowing who she is) and has decided to make her living circumstances a bit more tolerable. In the end, the daddy's best friend realizes who Sarah is, and takes her in as his own. IT WILL MAKE YOU CRY AND CRY.

It's SO FLIPPING BEAUTIFUL, and through it all, Sarah never loses her hope or her belief that life is best spent being kind to others.

It's one of The Books. The books that define your childhood. It did mine. It pretty much makes me want to cry, knowing that I'm about to give one of the best books of my childhood to my daughter. I think I might have some kind of breakdown when it comes time to give her 'Anne of Green Gables'. (I read 'Anne' when I was 11.)

I'm seriously just ready to cry about this whole birthday - the last before double digits begin to happen. My beautiful girl is getting this beautiful book and I love her so much and I love this book so much and OH MY GOODNESS. I don't know what to do with myself. I've lost all coherency so I'm going to wrap up this post. If you're looking for something special to add to your home library, this is it.




12 comments:

  1. I recently stayed up and watched the Mary Pickford silent movie version of A Little Princess! I've only read the book once. It was in fifth grade, the year I went to the school the girls now attend, in fact. (Unlike The Secret Garden, which I've read many times, or Little Lord Fauntleroy, which I have never read at all. Have you?) I had grown up with the Shirley Temple movie version, which I adore, although they changed the ending to make it happier, of course. I love the '90s movie version, too, although they changed the ending (and setting) there, too. The Mary Pickford version, I discovered, is much more faithful to the book. I think I watched it on YouTube. You should check it out!

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    1. See, I'm just the opposite, I've only read The Secret Garden once! so funny! I have not seen the Mary Pickford version, I will TOTALLY check it out. I've only seen that version that came out in the late 80's and I was sad because they cast a girl who didn't have dark hair - Sara should have dark hair!

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  2. Oooh I have only read this book once or twice, but I can watch the Shirley Temple movie any time and I can also watch the 90's version any time. Now I will make sure to find this beautifully rendered book and set it aside for Harper. Mostly I'm going to have to build a library to hold all the books I plan to give her!

    What a wonderful birthday Julia is going to have!

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    1. Oh yes! Library! I remember being so excited when Julia was Harper's age, thinking of all the amazing books that lay in wait for her....:)

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  3. Oh, Melissa, you are the most beautiful and honest writer. What an incredibly beautiful tradition to give your daughter a book that was formative for you at exactly the time it did its forming.

    Did you know that the Waldorf tradition teaches that a child in her 10th year fully realizes herself as different/separate from their parents and therefore begins thinking of life as her own experience? One that is to be shared with parents and friends and loved ones, but one in which she is the protagonist. Who can say for sure if that's true or if anyone can make any blanket statement about any age, but what a beautiful tradition you're setting up by giving your daughter these treasured stories to help her understand herself in relation to the world through these characters and through her mother's own relationship with literature.

    You're amazing and I'm staying tuned. L is going to be five in May and I'm already weepy over that!

    xox,

    A.

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    1. ok what you just wrote there was WAAAAY more beautifuller :) than anything I slapped up there! That was lovely and thank you thank you for such a thoughtful note - I appreciate it so much! That's so cool about the Waldorf story, I didn't know that! But it makes complete sense.

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  4. Oh the book's a treasure and your story behind it even more so. I think I read the book for the first time when I was about nine too, and I've only seen the 1995 film -which I adore. That's the BEST birthday present for your sweet little princess :)

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    1. Thank you Miss Georgia!! I think I'm a bit more thrilled with it than she is, LOL - she's more excited about her new Ever After High book! :)

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  5. I also cherish my Tasha Tudor copy! Its hard to imagine Sarah in any other way! Happy Birthday to all of you! :)

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    1. Emily!! happy February to you :) - I just looked at my copy and realized I got it when I was 7 - but I didn't actually read it until age 9 - my grandparents gave it to me and wrote in the front page for me - so I wrote in Julia's book in just the same spot :)

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  6. that was my favorite book! i have that book actually. but i didn't really get into it until my late teens. but i fell in love with it.

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  7. I hope your precious daughter grows everyday in her appreciation of this beautiful gift.

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