Monday, December 1, 2008

Synopsis: The Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett

The wealthy and handsome Captain Crewe deposits his beloved daughter Sara at a London boarding school. The stern headmistress of the school, Miss Minchin, resents Sara from the first day of class. But not only is Sara clever, she is also uncommonly good, and gifted with the ability to tell stories that win her a fiercely devoted group of followers and the nickname Princess Sara. During Sara's birthday party, Minchin discovers that Captain Crewe has died of brain fever and left Sara penniless. Enraged, Minchin strips Sara of her finery and forces her to become a maid-of-all-work. Sara invents a fantasy-life she calls "the magic" that warms her despite the bitter cold. Someone leaves her secret gifts that make her believe ever more strongly in the magic. Her benefactor is the school's mysterious new neighbor -- Captain Crewe's business partner, who has been searching the globe for little Sara. He adopts her, and she becomes Princess Sara once again.

It's ok to start your synopsis a little further into the story than the manuscript does, if the problem comes later. You couldn't skip over the very beginning of Hatchet, of course. But here, the beginning is all prologue to Sara's fall from privilege and how she makes the best of it-- with goodness, imagination, and spirit-- and how she finds a happy ending in spite of her misfortunes and enemies. For a short synopsis, start with the problem.


Chris Eldin said...

I never read this book, but the synpopsis makes me want to. I really like this. I'm glad I'm not an editor, because I think this one is just darling.

Anonymous said...

I've always hated this book, even as a child. Something about an evil adult exacting revenge on an orphaned child turns my stomach. Go figure.

But, shouldn't the synopsis mention Miss-Minchin-the-bitch's motivation for hating Sara? Or maybe I don't remember correctly, WAS there motivation for her to hate Sara in the book? Lots of kids are good, was that the only reason? (seems implausible without motivation)

Anonymous said...

The story sounds way too familiar to me... I'm sure I've seen a movie with a very similiar premise. But that being said, I do think it's a good idea, but somethings don't add up for me. First, like others have said, why does Miss Minchin hate her, and secondly, it's hate to believe that her father died leaving her penniless but the father's old business partner is rich and looking for her.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Um Anon? The contest was for Well-known children's books...

And yes, the Shirley Temple version was similiar, but not identical. =)

(also, if I recall, the schoolmistresses motivation was that she'd bought a lot of stuff for Sara expecting to be paid back, and was now left footing the bill...)

Dal Jeanis said...

Anon 9:59 - I agree, the synopsis needs to show *why* the mistress would be "enraged" at the child.

Anon 10:24 -
(1) It's a famous Shirley Temple movie.
(2) The setting has a "Dickens" feel, so the fact that the women might not know the partner existed, or how to get in touch with him, is not atypical for the milieu.
(3) Partnership agreements, even today, can provide for all interests to be inherited by the surviving partner, rather than the decedent's family.

Anonymous said...

I'm Anon 10:24. Sorry I misunderstood the point... sorry again.

Marissa Doyle said...

Miss Minchin disliked Sara because she did not respond to her rather obvious cold-fishy flattery when they first met, and then Sara unintentionally made her look stupid in front of all the students and the French tutor.

It was thought the diamond mines Capt. Crewe and his partner invested in were a bust--and the partner ran away in shame at having ruined his best friend...but then it was discovered that they weren't a bust, and he was desperately looking for Sara. The book was first released in 1887 as "Sara Crewe".

Can you tell this was one of my favorite books once upon a time? :)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thank you thank you thank you. I've made improvements on my synopsis thanks to your postings here. I think I'm finally starting to get it. I was a fan of your blog already. Now I'm indebted.

Anonymous said...

I love Princess Sara or Sarah Crewe! I even love the Toei Animation Studio's version of the novel! It's the classic!

I was surprised to know some commentators didn't understand the book when I as a foreign kid who first read it, fully understood the story and ran off in the "World of Imagination." *smiles like Spongebob*

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