3 Lessons from A Little Princess

Once on a dark winter’s day, when the yellow fog hung so think and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.

This paragraph snatches readers into the whimsical London of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s imagination. As long-time readers of my blog know, this story world of contrasts is one of my favorite fictional landing places and has captivated me for almost a decade. Since we’ve been exploring the impact of fiction lately, it seemed fitting to do a post on the lessons in A Little Princess.

Lessons from ALP

A Good Name Is Rather To Be Chosen Than Great Riches

“It’s true,” she said. “Sometimes I do pretend I am a princess. I pretend I am a princess so that I can try and behave like one.”

When I first read A Little Princess, the luxury surrounding Sara Crewe fascinated me. When I thought about the fabrics, I could almost feel them. When I read about the shoes that Lavinia claimed were designed to make Sara’s feet look small, I wondered if my shoes made my feet look small. However, when all that was stripped from her, my sense of fascination with Sara didn’t lessen.

Sara’s richness doesn’t revolve around the things she owns. Her toys and dresses are interesting, but her personality and imagination make her surroundings breathtaking regardless of their material worth.

A Little Princess is a Cinderella story. Sara’s desire to behave like a princess could just as easily translate into Cinderella’s mantra, “Have courage and be kind.” Sara shows readers that cultivating an attitude rich in charity is a sort of wealth that can’t be stolen away like physical possessions.

Sara made me want a princess-like heart just as much as princess-worthy belongings.

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

“Why,” she said, “we are just the same–I am only a little girl like you.”

Sara does not make a habit of judging people by their social class, intellect, or appearance. When she needs someone in need of friendship, she eagerly seeks an opportunity to show kindness to that person. Her lack of superiority allows her to make genuine friends who love her as much when she is a pauper as when she was an heiress.

“She is hungrier than I am,” she said to herself. ” She’s starving.” But her hand trembled when she put down the fourth bun. “I’m not starving,” she said–and she put down the fifth.

This quote comes from one of the most vivid scenes in A Little Princess. Sara has reached an all time low, and Miss Minchin cold-heartedness is unrelenting. Deprived of meals, Sara happens across an abandoned coin. She uses the coin to get buns from a bakery, then gives away most of her purchase in order to help a girl worse off than herself. Part of being a princess, she tells herself, is feeding the populace.

Sara made me want to have an abundance mentality before I even knew the term.

The Trying of Your Faith Worketh Patience

“Yes,” answered Sara, nodding. “Adversity tries people, and mine has tried you and proved how nice you are.”

This sort of goes along with the first point. If Sara’s kindness had evaporated with her money, A Little Princess would be a very different story. Instead she is transformed from a spoiled child that has managed to remain level-headed to a girl who has proven her mettle and her character. When her riches are restored to her at the end of the story, they seem better than ever before because she has been tried by adversity and proved to be “nice.”

We are children of the King of Kings, heirs to unimaginable riches, yet we are to live in a world that we are not part of (John 17:13-19). Does our behavior evidence who we are in Christ?

Sara made me want to endure hardness while maintaining a good testimony.


Obviously I didn’t have such philosophical thoughts the the first time I read A Little Princess. To be honest, I only recently realized how many lessons stories have tucked into my heart. It’s really neat to look back and put words to the practical inspiration generated by stories like this one.

If you’ve read A Little Princess, do any of these lessons ring true for you? What is one positive, practical inspiration you’ve drawn from a story?

Book Review: The Chocolate Soldier

Chocolate Soldier, The

God’s summons today is to the young men and women of Great Britain and America and Christendom, who call themselves by the name of Christ.

The Chocolate Soldier is rather different from the books I normally review on this blog. It’s not a story, is only an estimated 17 pages in length. More of along essay than a book. However, I’m sure some of you, like me, appreciate a quick read sometimes. The Chocolate Soldier would be perfect for an extended devotional time.

I first heard C.T. Studd’s name five years ago when Eric Ludy came to speak at a homeschool conference. Mr. Ludy is a great admirer of C.T. Studd’s. Because of that endorsement, I quickly downloaded this short book when I found it for free on Amazon.

Studd wastes no time in getting to his point. He defines a “Chocolate Soldier” as a Christian who shrinks from the nitty-gritty of Christianity.

They are chocolate soldiers who merely go to see battles, and cooly urge others to fight them. They had better save their journey money and use it to send out real fighters instead.

Studd exhorts Christians to revive the heroism and determination exhibited by faithful men and women in the Bible.

Real Christians revel in desperate ventures for Christ, expecting from God great things and attempting the same with exhilaration.

Studd’s thought process and wording confused me a few times, but for the most part I enjoyed his whirlwind tour through heroes of the Bible. And the reminder not to be lukewarm is always beneficial. I think the message in The Chocolate Soldier would find a receptive and appreciative audience among many of you who read this blog.

Let me know if you check it out!

Guest Book Review: Pilgrim’s Progress

A few weeks ago when I mentioned my mom’s upcoming surgery and suggested that some guest book reviews would be nice, Spencer R. kindly submitted several for use here on Leah’s Bookshelf. Because this review has been posted previously on his blog, I’m just going to post a  teaser here and give you the link to his posts. (The reason for this is that Google assumes identical content on two websites indicates plagiarism, and both sites are less likely to get a good rank in a Goggle search.) Enjoy Spencer’s review and be sure to leave a comment for him here or on his site.

Pilgrin's Progress

I recently read John Bunyan’s classic allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress as part of my ‘Great Books’ curriculum for school. Bunyan wrote it while he was imprisoned for not conforming to the state church’s practices in the early 1670’s. It was one of the first times I had read a book that was from that time period so the old English was somewhat of a stretch for me, but I was still able to appreciate his message in the book. One of my favorite parts of the book was the way Bunyan represents death.

Read more on What John Bunyan Teaches us about Death in The Pilgrim’s Progress

How many of you have read Pilgrim’s Progress? What was your favorite part of the story? Have you read any of Bunyan’s other works?

Guest Book Review: A Walk Across America

One more book review from Spencer R. before I try to get my head back in the game. Because it has been posted previously on his blog, I’m just going to post a  teaser here and give you the link to his posts. (Google assumes identical content on two websites indicates plagiarism, and both sites are less likely to get a good rank in a Goggle search.) Enjoy Spencer’s review and be sure to leave a comment for him here or on his site.

Walk Across America, A

On October 15, 1973 [Peter Jenkins] and his dog set out, destined for Louisiana. It took them over a year and a half to travel the whole way on foot. Along the way, Peter realized that not all towns in America where just like Greenwich. Peter met a mountain man who still lived in a log cabin on the top of a Virginia mountain. He nearly died of influenza on the Appalachian Trail, was nicknamed Albino by a loving black family, worked in a North Carolina sawmill, as well as many more adventures.

Visit A Walk Across America to read more.

Book Review: The Bird’s Christmas Carol

Bird's Christmas Carol, The

“Mama, dear, I do think that we have kept Christ’s birthday this time just as He would like it. Don’t you?”

The whole Bird family (with the exception of the displaced baby of the family) knows something is special when the latest addition to the family (and the first girl) comes into the world on Christmas day. Mrs. Bird names the child Carol. Carol grows to become the angel of the Bird household, but she’s a frail angel. The day finally comes when Mrs. Bird must accept that summers in the country and expensive doctors cannot cure her little girl. But despite her illness, Carol enjoys life. And she takes special joy in her plans to give her Christmas away to the poor children who live next door.

This is a really short book, easily read in an hour or less. Carol, the main character, reminded me a lot of Little Lord Fauntleroy. She’s one of those flawless embodiments of virtue sometimes favored by old-fashioned writers. If that sort of thing turns you off, you probably won’t enjoy The Bird’s Christmas Carol. Personally, I felt the narrative was a bit boring in parts, but the story is so short it didn’t really matter. And the ending was poignant. One of those bitter sweet, glad but sad endings. If your a fan of classics this would be a perfect Christmas read. And it’s in public domain, so you can easily find it for free. Bonus!

I’m trying to do a Christmas theme for this month. I did it last year for December, though, so finding books is that much more challenging. Any suggestions?!

Guest Book Review: The Princess and the Goblin

Princess and the Goblin, TheOur guest book reviewer today is Emily Ruth. Born 6th of a family of eight, Emily Ruth has been all the way through homeschooling; from birth to graduation. In 2012, she graduated from Grand Canyon University and received her teaching credentials. At this time, she is now acting as a guest teacher in her hometown public school system. From the time she learned to read, Emily has been gorging herself with literature. Some of her very favorite books growing up were “A Little Princess”, “The Crimson Fairy Book”, “The Green Fairy Book”, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, and all the Austen books she could get her hands on. Enjoy her delightful review of The Princess and the Goblin.
If a little girl told me she had visited her great-great grandmother in the attic, I wouldn’t have believed her either. Such is the life of the little Princess Irene who lives in a huge mansion on a mountain with her nurse and other such occupants to attend her. For all the eight years of her life, Irene has lived unaware and blissfully ignorant of the existence of the Goblins, a fae race that lives under the mountains. They had lived on the surface, but were banished underground, and due to this, kept a burning hatred for not only humans, but especially the royal line. One rainy afternoon, as Irene is exploring the corridors of the mansion, she gets lost, and discovers a hidden occupant of the attics who introduces herself as Queen Irene, Irene’s great-great grandmother. Soon afterwards, Princess Irene and her nurse, who were out for a walk, are saved from a group of Goblins by a brave peasant boy, Curdie. Irene, now aware of the danger around her, soon starts to show her true noble colors. She is aided by Curdie, who discovers a plot against the kingdom and against the princess’s freedom by the goblins.

Frontpiece of The Princess and the GoblinThis tale is great fun, and there is much entertainment in reading it. The plot is somewhat convoluted, and not as simple as children’s books usually are, even for that day’s standards. The character development, however, is incredibly charming to read. Irene goes from a frightened little girl to a brave princess, and Curdie, who is already quite brave, must learn that things are not always what they seem, and to trust the trustworthy.

This book was written a very long time ago, before children’s books started to include “fantasy” as a genre. At this time, the only fantasies you could get was either in adult novels or stories, such as the fairy tale books that Andrew Lang compiled (another review for another time), or the Arthurian Legends. When George MacDonald came out with his “the Princess and the Goblin”, he was providing the world with the natural next step in children’s literature; and single-handedly reshaped modern children’s literature. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien read George MacDonald’s books, and the Chronicles of Narnia and the Hobbit were both influenced by his writings. Thus, however indirectly, many of the fantasy books you read today are influenced by “the Princess and the Goblin”.

Is there a book or an author that you look up to the most for having inspired you towards something you love?

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A Little Princess

Little Princess, A

“Left just one for herself,” she said in a low voice. “And she could have eaten the whole six–I saw it in her eyes.”

Little Sara Crewe lives a charmed life (figuratively, not literally ;)). Though she is devastated by the separation from her beloved father, there is little else she could want as she begins life in Miss Minchin’s boarding school. A few students, and even Miss Minchin herself, develop a distaste for Sara’s quaint ways and ridiculous wealth, but Sara makes friends of most. She captivates the school with her imaginative stories and consistent politeness. As she says when one of her most treasured games is revealed, ” I pretend I am a princess, so that I can try and behave like one.” Her courage is put to the test when she receives word that her father is dead and his fortune gone, wasted on an investment in diamond mines. Sara is turned into a maid and ill treated. Can she behave like a princess even when she is hungry and in rags?

I can’t remember when this story first captured my heart. In fact, I can’t remember a time I didn’t love A Little Princess. After countless readings over the year, I still haven’t tired of it. The luxurious extravagance lavished on Sara by her father during the first part of the book always fascinated me and engaged my imagination, while Sara’s humility and friendliness make her a lovable person to read about. When she loses is everything, her determined courage strengthens the desire to see her happy once again. And who doesn’t like a rags to riches story, especially one enacted in such a unique way?

While I love A Little Princess, I’ve never been able to get through reading The Secret Garden. Which story do you prefer?

Book Review: Captain Blood

Captain BloodAt the beginning of this book, Peter Blood is sticking to his plan of abandoning his life of adventure and becoming a physician. This resolution is destroyed when he goes to tend the wounds of a rebel and is arrested, subjected to a sham trial and sold into slavery. Thus cast back into a life of action and adventure, Peter leads a band of slaves in escaping, seizes a Spanish boat and becomes a pirate. But despite his new role as a buccaneer, the memory of Arabella Bishop (his ex-master’s niece), causes him to retain his honor. What will happen when, in a chance reunion, his love is spurned by the woman enshrined in his heart?

After friends lent us an old black-and-white film of this story (it was part of the Errol Flynn collection), I was excited to find the book available for free on my kindle. I was even more excited to find that the book and movie matched each other perfectly for quite a long time. After a while, the book began sharing adventures not shown in the movie. The third quarter of the story dragged a bit, but over all the story trotted right a long with the distinct style of an old-fashioned adventure novel. Both style and story bear some resemblance to The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Prisoner of Zenda, yet the tale is unique from both.

Author: Rafael Sabatini
Audience: Young Adult–Adult
Genre: Adventure
Pages: 296

What’s your favorite old-fashioned adventure story?