Title: Spring Pearl The Last FlowerAuthor: Laurence YepPublisher:Pleasant Company PublicationsPublish date: August 21, 2003
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 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.