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Princess Academy

Would-be princesses show grit, wisdom in empowering tale.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

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.


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. 

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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?


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
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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Teen, 17 years old Written bynewmillenium January 8, 2011

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
Kid, 11 years old January 22, 2010


Thsi book was REALLY GOOD! i HAD BOUGHT THE BOOK (301 PAGES) and i sat on the couch for about 5 hours. because I could not stop reading it! TRUE STORY The one death as posted above was to a bandit that held the main character and threatened to kill her, he fell off a cliff, (no blood at all)So as like most comments I would say everything about the book, that will be a spoiler. So I could say is GET THIS BOOK NOW!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written byLollipop4508 June 17, 2011

The book is full of negative messages that are disguised as positive ones.

I know its a weird thing to say about a book, but its very true. This book is like a how-to for bad judgement. The hero, Mirri, just having learned to read that week, decides that she now has the keys to all problem solving. She doesn't question the idea that maybe just because she has read one book she doesn't have all the answers. The best example; She doesn't understand things like demand, and supply, but she learns that this weird rock that they get from the mountain is expensive. So she now "knows" that the traders are cheating her village, and can somehow stop them. Ok? How about the cost of hauling this rock through a mountain? She has no idea what that costs the traders. She has no idea if anyone out in the wider world even wants this rock at a given time. Maybe no one even is building a palace in the lowlands. So how exactly would she be able to force the traders to change their prices? She can't take the rocks to the cities herself. Maybe the traders simple can't afford to give a better price even if the price of the rock is theoretically high. UGH. There is nothing worse then an idiot with a teeny bit of knowledge. Thats Miri in a nutshell. Worse yet, she is exactly the same with rules. Miri thinks that she is the best qualified to know if a given rule is just or not. Im sorry? Maybe I think drugs should be legal. Does that mean I can act on it? You don't just break a rule because you don't like it. Only a sociopath does that. Maybe thats a very good point actually. Miri is as shallow and as egotistical a person as I could imagine. I doubt she will grow out of it. Do not give this book to a kid. They will not learn any good lessons, and plenty of bad ones.