Literature Unit Study Ideas for A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnette

This post is part of the 31 Day of Literature Unit Study Ideas series. You can find links to all of the books in the series here. You can get this literature unit study as well as 44 others and lots of great literature unit study resources here in my free ebook The Ultimate Book of Unit Studies for Literature Lovers.

The book that I'm featuring today has been one of my favorites from the time I was little. A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett is a book I've read many times from the time I was little. I've read it to my children more than once. And we've seen two different film versions of the book. The book is a moving story, and it also has a historical setting that makes it a good book to turn into a literature unit study.

Literature Unit Study for A Little Princess

{We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. Occasionally posts contains other affiliate links as well.}

About the book...

The book is set in England in the early 1900s. Sara Crewe is a little English girl who has grown up in India in a very wealthy lifestyle. She and her father have a very close relationship because Sara's mother is dead, and they have only each other. But Sara's father decides to send her to live and learn in an English boarding school because he wants her to be educated in England. Sara is taken to live in Miss Minchin's Seminary for Girls. Sara's father, who has always pampered her, provides well for her before he leaves, and Sara is set up in style at the school. He also reminds Sara that she is his princess.

Miss Minchin treats Sara in a very preferential manner because, of course, her father is rich and can spend much money on the school. The other girls wonder if Sara is going to be snobbish, but they quickly realize that she has a kind and giving heart. And most of the girls grow to love her and to treat her as a princess. Unfortunately, on Sara's birthday, as Miss Minchin is spending huge sums of money- that should be reimbursed by Mr. Crewe- on a lavish party and gifts, Sara receives word that her father has died and left her penniless. Miss Minchin quickly changes her treatment of Sara, angry that she'll get no more money from Mr. Crewe. Sara is sent to live in the attic and work in the school as a servant.

As Sara's circumstances change, readers see how Sara remains a princess in her attitude and actions despite her situation. And, a parallel story begins to unfold about a gentleman who has just arrived next door to the school- a friend of Mr. Crewe's from India who is searching for Sara, never knowing she is just next door.

A Little Princess has some deep themes and would make difficult reading for younger readers. Middle schoolers and up can probably read it independently, but I read it aloud to my younger girls when they were about 3rd and 4th graders. Although it seems that the book would be a "girlie" book, there is quite a bit of action that can make it appealing to boys as well.

Topics to discuss...

  • Often the title of a book reflects the main theme or one of the main themes of the book. Why do you think this book is titled A Little Princess? Is Sara a real princess? Would you consider her a princess throughout the book?
  • Sara's father left her in boarding school because he thought it was best for her. Do you think it was an easy decision for him or a hard one? Why?
  • Lavinia and Miss Minchin both seem to dislike Sara from the start. Why? What makes them continue to dislike her after her circumstances change?
  • What are some ways in which Sara shows courage throughout the story?
  • Sara generally tries to make the best of the situation- when her father first leaves her and when she is left penniless. What are some ways in which she tries to make the best of it?
  • In the 1900s in England, people had a different view of class and stations in society. How does this affect the way that Sara and Becky are portrayed in the book? In the end, Becky is "rescued" by becoming Sara's own servant. But she's still a servant. Why would the author choose to have things work this way? (This topic may require some research into the system of class in 1900 England.)- This is an interesting slide show that explains things well.

History connections...

Science connections...

Language arts connections...

  • Sara loves to tell her friends stories of India. Watch this video to see a reading of an Indian story- Viku and the Elephant.
  • Sara manages to maintain her attitude and character despite tremendous adversity, but her character and personality do change throughout the story. Keep a character timeline to show how Sara changes. Draw a blank timeline and number it with the number of chapters in the book- nineteen. For each chapter write down information about how Sara acts or feels in that chapter. This allows readers to see the changes in Sara throughout.
  • Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the character of Sara with that of Miss Minchin. You can find a blank, printable Venn diagram here.
  • A Little Princess uses foreshadowing as the reader comes to realize that the Indian gentleman next door is really searching for Sara. Read more about foreshadowing here. Give some examples of foreshadowing in the story.


Literature Unit Study for A Little Princess

Other resources...


You can get this literature unit study as well as 44 others and lots of great literature unit study resources here in my free ebook The Ultimate Book of Unit Studies for Literature Lovers.


  1. Can't find the link up button Leah.... HELP? Annette @ A net in Time (

  2. This is an amazing resource you've put together, and I love the link up! I just noticed last week that they have the Shirley Temple movie on Netflix. Now this. We are in serious need of doing this unit study. I have it saved for future planning. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome. I love the old Shirley Temple movie version. :-)

  3. Is this literature guide still available? The link is not working


Thanks for stopping by. I love comments or questions, so be sure to tell me what you think.

As We Walk Along the Road © . Design by Berenica Designs.