Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Book Review of Little Lord Fauntleroy (with discussion questions and ideas)

**Edited 6/5/08 for layout and to make some passages clearer.**

Since I reviewed A Little Princess, I thought I would do another of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books. This one is a story I remember from childhood, though I never read it. I saw the movie with Ricky Schroeder. I do not see it very often on recommended reading lists, but it’s not a bad book. A little annoying at times, though, and we’ll get into that shortly.

Little Lord Fauntleroy is about a boy named Cedric, who is the son of an Englishman, but Cedric is growing up in America. It seems his father, who was the third-born son of the Earl of Dorincourt , went to America and fell out of favor with his proper British father by marrying an American girl. The father refused to have anything to do with him. They were still estranged when the young man died, sometime after becoming a father to a little boy.

So here is Cedric, growing up like any American boy in the city. He is a quaint little fellow, and his best friend is a grown-up man who owns the corner grocery. But he plays with other boys, too. He is an attractive child, with long golden curls and his mother insists on him wearing lace collars and velvet suits. Remember this fact, because you will need it later! We see that the child does not mind this style of dress at all. He takes it all in stride and runs around and plays like any other child.

His life takes a sudden turn when he is identified as the only surviving heir to the Earl of Dorincourt. Yes, it seems that the older sons were not nice boys and had met an unfortunate end because of their wild living. They left no heirs, so now the Earl has to make contact with Cedric and his mother after meaning to never have anything to do with them. So his solicitor makes his way to America to get the little boy, who now has the title of “Lord Fauntleroy,” and bring him back to England, where he can learn to be an earl from his grandfather.

The solicitor notices what a unique child Cedric is and makes note of it. It is not just because of his distinguished style of dress, but what he does when given a gift of a large amount of money. He chooses to help his friends, rather than spending any of it on himself.

Here is a good point for discussion. What would you do if given a large sum of money? Cedric was already aware of a few needs around him, and wished to do something, but as a child he was really powerless. He was given the gift of power, and chose to use it to make someone else’s life better.

The money was not meant as a test for Cedric, to see if he would do the good and right thing. It was to give him a taste of how it felt to have a lot of money, so that he would not give them any trouble about going to see his grandfather. What does that tell you about the grandfather?

So Cedric and his mother go to England. The mother knows that Cedric will be expected to live at the castle with the grandfather, while she lives in a house nearby. Cedric doesn’t like that at all because he has never been away from his mother. The mother still is not welcome at the castle, since she is an American and the grandfather does not like her.

The mother decides not to tell her little boy about why she is not going to live at the castle, so that he will not form a bad opinion about the earl. What kind of character does this show? We are beginning to see more clearly why the little boy shows such superior character.

The Earl of Dorincourt is prepared not to like this little American boy, but Cedric begins to win him over even on their first meeting. Their relationship steadily grows stronger.

Throughout the book, we have been hearing glowing narrative about Cedric’s looks. Remember I said that the book is annoying at times? This is the annoying part. There are multiple references to Cedric’s appearance, particularly his hair. It leaves us wondering if Cedric is a virtuous boy who happens to be beautiful, or if perhaps the author feels the two are one and the same. Cedric’s grandfather is definitely influenced by his grandson’s good looks, but it is unclear whether that is meant to be a character flaw.

One nice thing about this book is that though we have the main character who is of a high social ranking, we see that other people in his same class are shown to be very selfish, foolish, and we might say undeserving of their station in life. It is also clear that Cedric, though raised in a very different circle before he comes to England, is more fit for his position than anyone. He owes this not to his inherited title, but to his mother, who is not nobility, but has noble character.

Cedric often does not understand his grandfather, but always believes the best about him. Even though this is partly due to his childish innocence, it ends up having a positive effect on his grandfather.

This story does open some good topics in character, particularly looking at Cedric and his mother. That is the most positive aspect of the book.

Older students might want to research a different topic related to this book. That would be the “pop culture” aspect. When this book was first printed, young mothers fell in love with Cedric, and for many years they had the desire for their little boys to dress in the same style as Cedric. The “Little Lord Fauntleroy” look was quite the fashion for a good number of years, much to the chagrin of young boys everywhere!


  1. Hi! I came across a comment you left on another blog about one of your kids who thought the pine sol bottle was a good drinking vessel. My little one, this morning, ingested a very small amount of diluted pine sol. I called poison control, but I got worried when my son got diarrhea and called back poison control. They assure me that everything should be fine. Did you have to bring your son to the hospital? Poison control said there was no need, but I'm still a bit nervous! Thanks!

  2. Hi again, No need to respond to the above. My child ingested such a tiny amount that he only got a bit of diarrhea and is fine. Poison control, of course, was right! Thanks!