Off the Shelf: Pretty, Pretty Princess

Almost all the books I’ve shared in Off the Shelf have been acquisitions I made in adulthood, scrounging around musty old used bookstores and library shops. But this one is actually from my childhood.

It’s a beautiful hardbound copy of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess illustrated by Graham Rust. I remember reading both this book and The Secret Garden well before I was old enough to understand most of the meaning. But I do remember loving the illustrations in this one.


I was a real priss growing up. Still am. So, I loved anything girly, frilly, dainty, proper, flowery, and so on. This book was right up my alley. It’s a mix of lovely full-color illustrations and smaller black-and-whites.

Here’s Sara Crewe’s first day at Miss. Minchin’s boarding school for girls. I love all the detail that the artist packs into each image. Minchin’s the ultimate sourpuss. Sarah is a heavy-lidded dreamer.


Here’s Sarah on that fateful birthday. The illustrator has taken everything into consideration, right down to the hanging picture frames in the hallway and the crown moulding on the ceiling.


Now, it’s not very popular for illustrations to be framed “vignette” style, with the circular, fading border. But it kind of fits the prissiness of this story. It’s as if all the illustrations, shrunk to size, could fit inside a locket.


Here’s one of the sorrowful black-and-whites, which is probably just graphite or charcoal pencil. The folds in the fabric of her dress are what make this one.


Oh, the injustice of it all…


This wonderful two-page spread of Sara’s room decorated India-style by her mysterious friend is something I would’ve payed little attention to as a child, but now I can appreciate the detail.


Enjoy a few more images from the book:



Don’t these illustrations make you want to have tea? In a china teacup? With lemon cookies? Me too.


2 thoughts on “Off the Shelf: Pretty, Pretty Princess

  1. Beautiful illustrations!.. And while I never read the full story before in a book, I will chime in to say, on a slight tangent, that there are two particular movies, starring Shirley Temple, that are my very favorite. One is The Little Princess, and the second is Wee Willie Winkie. I just love all the characters in The Little Princess.. Sara, Becky, Bertie, Miss Rose and Geoffrey… I never grow tired of the “the little classic”.

    • I haven’t seen those movies. I will have to check them out. Since the book is a little too hard for children to read until they’re older, so it’s neat that there are movies out there that appeal to kids that tell the basic storyline. Thanks for your thoughts!

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