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Children's Literature @ NYPL
Booktalking "Spring Pearl: the Last Flower" by Laurence Yep
Twelve-year-old Chou Spring Pearl moves to the ritzy Sung mansion when her scholar parents die in Canton in 1857. Formerly from the Rats' Nest neighborhood, the rich Sung children take to calling Spring Pearl "Miss Ratty," then "Miss Weed" when they discover her love of gardening. Blessing, a Sung son, is determined to defeat her at a myriad of games, including chess. Doggy, one of the servants, places bets that she will survive the scathing insults and remain in the palace. He makes a lot of money from her perseverance.
Master Sung is imprisoned for protesting taxes. His guards utilize "humiliation" (aka torture) as part of their interrogation techniques. Spring Pearl is shocked to find his bruised and battered body huddled in the corner of a filthy cell; she and Doggy leave with another prisoner's screams ringing in their ears.
1857 is the time of the Second Opium War, and there are looters anxious to partake in the Sung family fortune. Mistress Sung has good aim with broken pieces of rock, but there are so many thieves, most adorned in expensive robes, jewelry and hats that they have already taken from other victims.