I fear I might be in a total rut; I've read a ton of fairy tale-like books lately, and this one is no exception. I guess it's because we end the school year with a super fun fairy tale unit and I am still living in that moment.
Anyway, Princess Academy is really good! It's easy to see why it was honored with a Newberry Honor Award. And since one of my students read it (and like 100 other books this year - no lie!) and recommended it to me, I couldn't wait to read it.
Miri lives with her father and sister in a mountainous territory of the fictional Danland that is known for its linder stone (marble). Life on Mount Eskel is simple and pleasant, and the people of the territory are a strong, tight knit community.
When the king's priests tell him that his son's bride is from the small village, he wastes no time in sending guards and servants to create a Princess Academy to prepare the girls of Mount Eskel to become princesses. In one year, the prince will come to the Academy and choose his bride.
Miri and the other young girls are taken away from their families and put in the often harsh keeping of Olana, their tutor. Faced with harsh conditions, competition from the other girls and homesickness, Miri ultimately uses her new knowledge to aid her family and her entire village. Through her studies she learns that her people have been taken advantage of when they sell their linder stone to the traders who visit each year.
Full of intrigue, mystery, adventure, and a little bit of magic, Princess Academy lends itself quite easily to discussions of character, setting, themes of acceptance, friendship, and even economics. This would be a good book for a small group; I don't think most of the boys would enjoy it. But the right group of girls and boys might really get into it! I will definitely recommend this book for partner reading next year.
Buy it now at Barnes & Noble