Princess Academy

 
Would-be princesses show grit, wisdom in empowering tale.
Newbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Strong messages about resourcefulness, open-mindedness, diplomacy, kindness, fairness, reconsidering bias, and the value of education.

Positive role models

Miri is smart, kind, curious, positive, and anxious to solve problems with humor and intelligence. Her father's a tough but loving presence; her sister's a kind and supportive influence. The mountain folk are portrayed as incredibly reliable, loving community members. The majority of the girls in training are well-intentioned, though some are depicted as competitive and jealous.

Violence

A man falls off a cliff to his death; a girl falls off a cliff but survives; a man threatens to slit the girls' throats or kill them; a man's arm is broken; bandits capture and take hostages, hitting or intimidating them and dragging a girl by her braids; references to girls whose parents have died, either mothers in childbirth or in accidents; girls are smacked on the palm for talking out of turn in class or locked in closets for hours without food. 

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Shannon Hale's Newbery Honor book Princess Academy is a moving fantasy about girls who are ordered to leave their families to train for a year to become suitable for the local prince, who aims to marry a girl from their village. There are some intense scenes where girls are held hostage by bandits, threatened with violence or death. Some injury and death occurs. Loss looms large in the story; several of the girls have lost parents in accidents or their mothers in childbirth. These elements offer a sometimes bleak setting for what is an otherwise tremendous coming-of-age story that transcends the princess genre in its understanding of family, gender, thirst for knowledge, and sense of community. 

What's the story?

Miri and her family and community are happy with their lives on Mount Eskel harvesting quarry. But then word arrives that the king's priests have seen the future bride of their prince, and she hails from Mount Eskel. All girls age 12 to 18 are ordered to attend the nearby academy, where they'll transform from commoners into ladies and prepare for a possible life as a princess -- and compete to be chosen by the prince himself. As they separate from their families and begin to learn to read, curtsy, and converse like royalty, Miri and the girls must face life away from their families for the first time, enduring competition among themselves, cruelty from the academy mistress, and figuring out whether it's all worth taking the hand of a boy they've never even met.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

PRINCESS ACADEMY excels at blending the elements of a simple princess story with larger, more complicated truths about the world. What begins as a story about a town of girls training to one day be princesses, with the plucky and thoughtful Miri at the center, unfolds as a tale about community and friendship, as well as the power of education to transform communities and the power of confidence to help women reach their full potential. Along the way, there are subtle messages about the dangers of prejudice, the importance of being open-minded, and how fairness and respect are essential to good governance.

But mostly this is just a well-conceived adventure about leaving home, growing up, learning about the world, and returning to make your community better. For young girls interested in princess themes, it may be hard to return to lighter fare when presented with such compelling and complex storytelling that weaves together so many characters and concerns. It's hard to imagine a better use of the genre.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Princess Academy transcends the princess genre. How do Miri and the girls shift their thinking from about what the prince can do for them and their families to what they can do for their communities?

  • Why do princess stories remain so popular, even with modern readers? 

  • How does Princess Academy portray education in the lives of these girls? Does learning ever feel to you the way it does to Miri?

Book details

Author:Shannon Hale
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great girl role models, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:January 29, 2006
Number of pages:250
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byMs.Readalot September 15, 2011
age 9+
 

My favorite

I love this book! It has all the best things a book could have: action. romance (not yucky stuff), and you can understand how the characters feel! This book is by far one of my faves!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old June 2, 2011
age 8+
 

Amazing

Great, excellent book... It's basically okay for any kid who can read it, I'm guessing about eight years old.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Teen, 17 years old Written bynewmillenium January 8, 2011
age 8+
 

Perfect for young readers, enjoyable for older ones...

I loved this book when I was a tween and I still love it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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