Twelve year old Chou Spring Pearl's life is in upheaval. Recently orphaned, she is taken in by the family of her scholarly father's friend and benefacTwelve year old Chou Spring Pearl's life is in upheaval. Recently orphaned, she is taken in by the family of her scholarly father's friend and benefactor Master Sung. Raised in a bamboo hut located in the "rat's nest' poorer neighborhood of Canton Spring Pearl has been raised in an unorthodox manner for girls of her time. The daughter of a scholar who was known for his paintings she knows how to read , and write, and can speak some English, due to her father's business with British and other foreigners before they were pushed out of the city, but does not know how to sew, embroider, or play music. Spring Pearl's home was humble compared to the home of the Sung family and her foster sister's and the servants tease her about her humble beginnings.
However, during her time in the Sung household, Spring Pearl finds herself slowly being accepted as a part of the family. Her dedication to reviving the fading garden in the compound and her honor and loyalty to Master Sung show her to Mistress Sung in a more favorable light than that of the "leech" the mistress had thought of her when she first came into the household. Caught in a place where she isn't a servant, but also isn't one of the wealthy family, Spring Pearl fights to find her place in the household she has become a part of. When Master Sung is arrested for treason, and the French and British attack Canton again will Spring Pearl be able to use her talents and knowledge to help the family that took her in to stay safe and keep their home during the turmoil?
Spring Pearl the Last Flower is one of the Girls of Many Lands book series produced by the American Girls company between 2002 and 2005. This line of books and dolls was aimed at older girls and spanned several countries and time periods. I picked this book up from bookmooch to add to the books I was leaving at a little free library near the school I student taught at last spring. However, I hung onto the book to read because I thought it looked interesting and was written by the author of Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate which I read years ago when my younger sister cleared out her book collection prior to a move and had enjoyed very much. I found this book to be an interesting one that takes place at the start of the second Opium War in China. Spring Pearl is a positive strong heroine and would be a good role model for any tween. The book itself might be a little hard at times to read, there is a lot of historical detail included, and Spring Pearl's behavior is not what a modern reader might expect.
I wish that this line of books and dolls hadn't been so short lived. I love the range of countries and ethnicities included in the series. While this book looks at China in the late 1850's other books introduced Tudor England (1592), 18th century France (Pre Revolution), Yup'ik Alaska (1890), and Partition era India (1939).
As an adult reader I found this book to be fairly easy and informative historical fiction reading. I think it would be great for middle school aged readers with an interest in historical fiction....more
**spoiler alert** Three children in a mysterious American city on the coast find their lives intertwined together by strange happenings. As they devel**spoiler alert** Three children in a mysterious American city on the coast find their lives intertwined together by strange happenings. As they develop friendships with each other they come to discover that they need to work together to help each other with the problems that plague their lives.
Giuseppe, is an Italian orphan who was bought from his uncle and taken from his home in Italy and his siblings to work as a street musician for a padrone named Stephano. As one of Stephano's "wards" Giuseppe busks on different street corners throughout the city, playing a worn fiddle and collecting coins that are brought back to Stephano every night. It has been six years since he was brought from Italy, and he wants to return to find his brother and sister who had been left with his uncle. But he has no way to get a boat ticket as they cost more money than he can make and the docks are paid by off by the padrones. One day he finds a green violin floating in the wreckage of a cargo ship and after playing it he comes up with a plan. But he has to keep the violin secret from Stephano to avoid it being taken from him and given to another of the padrone's street musicians.
Frederick is also an orphan. Rescued from life in an orphanage and working in a cloth weaving factory by chance. He is apprenticed to the elderly Master Branch, a guild master clock maker. He is only thirteen but has dreams of completing his journeyman's project and becoming the youngest journeyman clock maker in the guild. He is secretly building a clockwork man in the basement of his master's shop, and has completed the body but does not know how to start fabricating the head.
Hannah works as a maid in the ornate hotel her father helped build. She has left school in order to support her family after her father becomes bed bound after suffering a stroke. On the day that she overhears the head of maids and the head staff keeper talking about a hidden treasure she is catapulted from the position of an ordinary room maid to the personal maid of a wealthy and mysterious Madame Pomroy, a guest of the hotel. As she is working for Madame Pomroy she is given the opportunity to experience things she had only ever dreamed of doing like visiting the opera for a performance. When her father falls ill with an infected bedsore the doctor wants to amputate his leg but says that there is an expensive medication that can help the infection. Can Hannah find the money to pay for the medicine?
As events between the three young teenager's lives start to mesh together they form a friendship. The three need to learn to trust each other to overcome the danger's that lurk before them. Can they successfully navigate the adventures that take them through the city and into the wild park at it's center while staying true to themselves and the beliefs that they hold dear to themselves?
The copy of this book that I read is an advanced reading copy that I picked up from a local little free library. From the moment I started reading I was transported to this nineteenth century city and found myself engrossed in the story of the three children. I loved the book and read it in one sitting. The way that the city and the wilderness of McCauley's park were written were so realistic and engrossing.
I also loved the addendum at the end of the book in the about the author section saying that he was inspired by a true story from 1873 named Joseph who had been brought to New York City as a slave to play music for money on the streets of the city. The real boy Joseph's court case against his padrone brought about changes in the laws of New York City that protected children who had been brought to the country like himself. I could tell from the way the book was written that the author has a love of history, and he brought such realistic touches to his city in the story. This was the first book written by author Matthew Kirby and has jumped him onto my list of author's to look for in the future....more