This review was first posted on amazon on June 3, 2003.
I first read this book when I was ten years old. I still remember being transported from my Boise, Idaho sunroom, circa summer vacation 1976, back to the foggy gaslit streets of Victorian London. I don't believe that I moved off that sunroom couch until I had devoured this entire book. I loved the whole idea of A Little Princess -- the beautiful clothes (watered silk and petticoats!), the food (gruel!), and Sara's suffering in the garrett. Sara's life was so different from mine. Reading this book was like travelling to a different continent.
In some ways, this is a formula book for girls -- although it might be fair to say that this book invented the formula: plucky, mistreated orphan (mysteriously stripped of her fortune), who never loses hope and remains truly good transformed through a mysterious benefactor into a girl rich beyond her wildest dreams (see also: the Boxcar Children; Little Orphan Annie, etc).
Sara is an extremely engaging character. She is almost too good to be true -- kind to the servants, smarter than the headmistress, and able to tell stories that ensnare her listeners. Sara's stories enable her, first to make friends, and then later, to cope with the rather significant blows that life (and the author) deal her.
And, in the best of tradition of this type of story, Sara is rescued, her wealth is restored, she remains a perfectly lovely little girl, and the horrible headmistress who mistreated her gets her comeuppance. All is right with the world once again.