I Read: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

You ever find an unread book on your shelf that has been there so long you can’t even remember how you got it? As an avid reader, I don’t have many of them, but this was one.

It’s been with me so long the page edges are browning and the cover has faded, as I’m sure it’s shifted into various sun-bleaching positions as it’s followed me. I’m thinking it was a gift, probably from a grandparent when I was a little girl. It has a 1987 copyright, and I could tell from the un-ridged binding it had never been fully read.

I do remember attempting to read it when I was young, but something stopped me only a few pages in. As a kid, it could have be as simple as the total number of pages or the tiny print or the lack of pictures. But whatever it was, it didn’t grab me. Surprisingly so.

Because I really enjoyed it. It’s about Sara, a young, rich, and extremely kind girl who is left to attend an all-girls boarding school. She’s prone to telling imagined stories, both to herself and any classmate that will listen. At first, they’re fanciful and fun, making the other girls laugh and stare at her in mesmerized wonder. But when her father unexpectedly passes away, leaving her penniless, her stories almost become necessary for surviving her new life, filled with labor and void of much food.

Let’s just say, as a writer, while I can’t identify with her, I can understand.

I think for most kids, it’s second nature to tell stories. Playing “pretend” is something you’re never taught how to do. It just happens. Your room becomes a castle or a cave, your toys loveable friends or inscrutable villains, depending on what your story needs. And finding friends that will follow you on your dreamed adventures is an amazing gift.

For me, when I wasn’t creating solitarily on my parent’s computer, I jumped between playing Barbie’s with the neighborhood girls and War with the boys. Believe it or not, the Barbie storylines took more deliberate, concentrated telling. The war stories, imagined while crammed behind a rock wall in preparation for battle, came much more naturally.

Then, as a kid gets older, physically or mentally, the stories become harder to believe but even more important to tell. For Sara, she struggled to see the point in continuing with her stories when life continued to remind her they weren’t, and would never be, real. Inevitably, though, she kept dreaming and eventually found joy again in her wasted life.

For me, my stories can become harder to believe because I must criticize and dissect and analyze every decision and element. As I imagine it is for most writers, every word I put to paper must be second-guessed. And while I live to tell stories, writing them sometimes seems like a pointless chore.

So I could wax poetic about this book, this story of a girl who wants desperately for her stories to be realized, finding me now when I’d appreciate it most, but that all sounds too corny to me. It really was just sitting on my shelf, and I needed something to read, so I grabbed it. But I’m glad I did. It was a good story of perseverance and strength. I really enjoyed it and the little girl who was obsessed with “make believe.” I enjoyed it even more that it all worked out in the end.

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