Like most readers who love classic literature I am generally appalled by modern sequels to great classic works. One of the worst books I've had the misfortune to read was a 'sequel' to Sherlock Holmes. But then again, one of my favorite recent series was a 'sequel' to Sherlock Holmes. So, I know that when it works, it really can be a delightful experience.
Fortunately, I had re-read A Little Princess fairly recently. I still loved the book, but I recall that I wasn't *as* enamored as a I was a child. My adult self saw the little chinks in Burnett's armor. Mostly, I couldn't help but be annoyed by that cheap author trick of elevating the heroine by rendering all those around her either foolish, vain or cruel. Why did Ermengarde have to be so dull and plain? Was there something behind Lavinia's viciousness?
Hilary McKay must have been wondering the same things. This story picks up right where the last story left off, but instead of following Sara in her sparkling new life, we experience life at Miss Minchin's Select Seminary with those who were left behind in the wake of Sara's grand exodus.
This is a remarkably well done and satisfying sequel. For starters, McKay writes in her own style and doesn't get hung up on 'sounding' Victorian and it really just works. She also gives us a believable and charming little character study of all those 'left behind' - both the Miss Minchins, Lavinia, Jessie, Ermengarde, and even troubled little Lottie. And there are a few new characters - efficient Alice, who replaces Becky, and some new neighbors who play a small, but key role in one student's life. And, yes, we still do get to keep up with Princess Sara a bit. All in all, a really great read!