It seems as soon as I decided to name the character in my new book series Princess P I came across all these books about princesses, so my last post for the year reviews some books about not so perfect princesses.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
As I child I watched a BBC production of this story and enjoyed it so much I can still remember much of it today, but I never read the book (probably because the book is never as good after you have seen the movie). When this book came packed with a book I really wanted to read, The Princess and The Suffragette, I decided to give it a read first, and I’m so pleased I did. Much as I really enjoyed the television version of the book, Frances Hodgson Burnett has a way of writing characters that make them so much more vivid than television is able to.
This story about a rich girl who finds herself a servant in the boarding school she attends when orphaned is sure to capture the heart of young readers who have enjoyed the Our Australian Girl series. Sara is a kindhearted character who attempts to deal with the changes in her life with as much dignity as she can muster, and she is lucky enough to have her true friends stand by her.
Through the story we are given a glimpse of how the class system in Victorian England treated girls and women of different classes, as well as finding out a little of the history of the empire. All this happens while the reader is engaged in a “can’t put down” story that has you hoping for a happy ending for Sara.
The Princess and The Suffragette by Holly Webb
I have to admit I didn’t pick up this book because I wanted to read Holly Webb’s sequel to A Little Princess, but rather because I wanted to see what a book about suffragette’s for Middle Grade Readers would be like. In my early teens right through to … well now … I have been fascinated by the women who agitated for votes for women.
Holly Webb’s sequel moves forward a few years and focuses on youngest character from A Little Princess. Lottie is lonely and feels alienated from her father, who has all but abandoned her in Miss Minchin’s School for Girls. She is seeing her friend Sara less, but finds a new friend in a young scullery maid and a sense of freedom and rebellion in supporting the suffragette movement.
True to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s ordinal story, this book also takes a long look at the roles women played in society in Victorian England, and how they fought to change it. I love that she uses real historical event as a backdrop, and that they are just that—the history is secondary to the story of a young girl growing up and learning of her past. I hope you enjoy the twist as much as I did!
I would certainly recommend reading this after A Little Princess, but I also works well as a stand alone for your tween readers.
Winter Flame by K.A. Last and The Snow Queen’s Daughter by Serene Conneeley
For the older readers who still enjoy a more traditional princess, I recommend curling up with the anthology of fairy tale retellings Fairytale Christmas. There are lots of great reimagining of old favourites here, but I think two of the strongest and most enjoyable come from a couple of my favourite Australian authors (although I may be a little biased).
Winter Flame by K.A.Last is a mash up of The Little Match Girl and The Princess and the Pea which is much more satisfying than either of the originals. Ember, the main character, is unsettled being placed in a strange environment, but proves stronger than everyone when she is true to her inner-self and allows compassion to guide her decision. I think you’ll be surprised by the twists in this fairytale, but also warmed by the ending.
Serene Conneeley has written the Snow Queen’s tale from her daughter’s point of view, and it is a real love / coming of age story, but with a twist I didn’t see coming. Even more surprising though was the portrait of the Snow Queen. Don’t get me wrong, she is still the villain of the piece, but I kept getting glimpses of why she was the way she was, and I started to warm to her.
There are other great stories in this book, and I can recommend it for a beach/fire side read this holiday break.