Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Princess and the Suffragette by Holly Webb

Library Girl and Book Boy

I picked this book - The Princess and the Suffragette -  in a bookshop recently for two reasons.  Firstly the title - I am fascinated by the suffragette movement in England prior to WWI and secondly I liked the cover but when I sat down to read it a couple of days ago I made an odd discovery.  On the cover it says "A sequel to the much loved classic A little Princess."  I had no idea about the book A Little Princess and wrongly assumed it was also by Holly Webb.  I searched all over this new book for a clue.  I looked at some bookseller sites and eventually I discovered A Little Princess is a book written by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1905.  I wonder why the publisher didn't put this detail somewhere on the book.

This is the second 'sequel' book I have read by Holly Webb.  About a year ago I read Return to the Secret Garden - a sequel to another book by Frances Hodgson Burnett - The Secret Garden.  Holly Webb is not the first person to pen a sequel to A little Princess - I have also found a book by Hilary McKay called Wishing for Tomorrow.

Knowing this was a sequel I needed to find A little Princess.  Luckily it is available through Project Gutenberg.  I will say I do think it is essential to read this classic first or as a short cut you could read this plot outline from Wikipedia..  I found the early chapters of The Princess and the Suffragette very confusing before I realised this was a special kind of sequel.

At the end of A little Princess, Sara is rescued by her father's business partner and moves in to the house next to Miss Minchin's school and it seems her life will now be perfect.  The Princess and the Suffragette picks up the story nine years later.  In this story the main character is Lottie who was left at the school aged 4.  Now aged eleven Lottie has begun to question her situation.  Why won't her father come to visit?  Would he have abandoned her if she was a born a boy? What does her future hold?  Then she sees the school's scullery maid wearing a mysterious badge.  She demands to know the truth.  Living a sheltered life in the school Lottie knows nothing of the Suffragettes but Sally has newspapers and pamphlets and over the coming year Lottie learns about the struggle, the suffering of Suffragettes who have been imprisoned and the movement of 'deeds not words'.  She is invited to the races by Sara. It is the Derby where Emily Davison runs onto the track and is killed.  In the final fast-paced scenes Lottie discovers the truth about her mother, who she had been told was dead, and she is able to confront her absent father.

Older Primary students who enjoy historical fiction should look for this book.  I really appreciate the research done by Holly Webb.  For example she mentions this slogan.  From Prison to Citizenship.

Sally has this poster in her attic room but Lottie has no idea what it means.  Factory Acts Regulations for Women - They have a cheek. I've never been asked.

One more connection.  I have long had a memory of a Shirley Temple film where two little children are sleeping in an attic.  Someone comes in the night and transforms the space providing floor rugs, furniture and a soft beautiful bedding.  I now discover this scene is from is the movie of A little Princess. Actually there have been many movie and television adaptions of this famous book.

Holly Webb is such a prolific author.  She has written over 90 books.  Here is a review with more story details.  You can listen to an audio sample which begins from page 4.

Here are some covers for A little Princess.  It is fascinating to see the different ways illustrators and publishers have presented this book. 

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