At the end of A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1904), Sara Crewe got a Happy Ending, and Becky got to ride on her coat-tails. But the other students of Miss Minchen's Academy--Lavinia, Lottie, Ermengarde and all-- were left stuck there in dismal-ness.
Now they have been freed, and given stories and endings of their own.
And very satisfyingly too.
Wishing for Tomorrow is told from Ermengarde's point of view--poor lumpish Ermengarde for whom Sara's departure was hardest (and who Burnett seems to have regarded simply as a foil for Sara's relentless perfection). Now she gets a chance to be a person in her own right, and I love her. And Lavinia (the mean and snottie one), Lottie (the rascally little one), and even Miss Minchen herself come alive, in ways that Burnett, with her "Sara as be all and end all" approach to things, never let happen. I never thought I would care about Lavinia, or even, heaven forbid, Miss Minchen, but now I do...
If you love The Little Princess, I bet you will enjoy this book. It stays true to that story, while giving it (and I know this is a cliche, but so what) new life. If you love Hilary McKay, you won't be disappointed either--there is the humor and detail and love for the characters that makes her books favorites of mine. And if you don't have strong feelings about either, this is still a book that those who love character-driven books (especially books about girls at school) will enjoy.
If, one the other hand, you don't like character-driven books about girls of long ago where very little Happens, you probably won't like it that much.
Wishing for Tomorrow has been out for a couple of months already in the UK and Australia (Hodder 313 pp), and comes out here in the US from Margaret K. McElderry on January 5, 2010. Here is the US cover. I prefer the UK one, which I have because my sister went the extra mile (literally)--thank you so much, Emily! The US one looks a bit too sweetly pretty for my taste.
Here's another review, from Nayu's Reading Corner, and another from a 12 year-old reader at Chicklish. Neither of them loved it as much as I did. But here's a third review that's after my own heart, from So Many Books...(with several great quotes!)
And here's my own favorite quote (which Nayu also includes in her review, but which is so brilliant I have to have it too).
Ermengarde has begun to write long letters to Sara, who has asked her to keep an eye on Lottie:
'And so I went up and she was hopping around on one leg saying she was a flamingo and her prayer was:Dear GodI think I would rather be the only
green flamingo in the world. Than pink.Nothing happened to her! I am sure if I ever prayed a prayer like that I would be struck down dead.
I said this to Lottie.
'God is used to me,' said Lottie." (p 84)