Book Review: A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Once in a while, its nice to read some classics from your childhood. However, I was surprised to discover that these two novels had slipped past me in my younger days. So this time I decided to read them together, and honestly I'm really glad I did.

A Little Princess is the story of Sara Crewe, the rich daughter of a British captain who is sent from her home in India to receive a formal education in London. Her father, a widower, sends her there while he returns to India and endeavors upon a business deal. Sara is the highlight of Miss Minchin's Seminary for Girls: she is beloved by most of the students and is kind and giving to everyone. Miss Minchin despises Sara and her good-heartedness, and only praises her in order to stay in her good graces. When Captain Crewe loses his entire fortune and dies unexpectedly, Sara is forced into indentured servitude at Miss Minchin's. She becomes close with Becky, the other scullery maid at the school, and receives magical presents from a secret friend living next door. Meanwhile, the mysterious benefactor next door is searching for the daughter of a close friend. In the end, Sara's fortunes turn around and the story ends happily ever after.

I love this story. I saw the 1990's version of the film and loved it as a child. This book brought back memories of watching that film and pretending to be a princess.  And that is the message of the story: no matter what your station in life, every girl can be a princess. No matter what Sara faces, she never loses hope in the magic of life and that no matter what, it can always be worse. She never loses her kindness and her love of giving to others less than her. This story is an excellent one for girls to read at a young age to glean from Sara and try to put her teachings to use in their own lives. Sara Crewe is a good role model for girls and women alike; we could all afford to be a little more kind to one another.

The Secret Garden is a different kind of story; rather than a riches to rags to riches story like A Little Princess, The Secret Garden is more of a transformation story. Mary Lennox is orphaned when her parents died unexpectedly in India during a cholera outbreak. She is sent to live with her curmudgeon of an uncle in Yorkshire. At first, Mary is a wretched child: spoiled, selfish and sometimes mean to those around her. As she becomes friends with the maid, Martha, she softens in her demeanor and learns to love the moors of York. Mary is intrigued by the mystery of the secret garden, and is ecstatic when she finds the hidden key; the key is the gateway to her transformation. In her mission to rejuvenate and transforms the garden, she befriends Martha's brother, Dickon, and together they bring life back to the garden and eventually the entire Craven family. She even helps her ill cousin, Colin, to overcome his difficulties and bring him and his father back together.

This is an enjoyable read. At first I was unsure if I would continue it because Mary is SUCH an unlikable character. But over the course of the novel, I grew fond of her and loved her transformation from petulant child to loving friend. My favorite characters were Dickon and Martha, who were the most down to earth and real characters in the book. Again, Burnett uses the idea of magic and its power over the minds of the young to convey her ideas to children. I love this technique and found it effective in both novels.

Overall, both of these books were wonderful and I would recommend these to all young children, especially girls, and anyone wanting a sweet, feel-good story of classic literature.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

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