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Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Last Princess

Stanley, Fay. THE LAST PRINCESS: THE STORY OF PRINCESS KA’IULANI of HAWAI’I. Ill. by Diane Stanley. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN: 0688180205

This is the story of the last princess in Hawai’i’s line of royalty. With a name meaning “the royal sacred one,” Ka’iulani was raised from birth knowing she would one day rule her people. To this end, she was given the best tutors, and was sent away to a private university in England. From the pictures we learn that it was not at all unusual for a woman to hold positions of power in Hawai’i at this time in history. Although she died at the age of 23, Ka’iulani worked hard to be a leader of her people even after Hawai’i was annexed to the United States in 1898.

Writer Fay Stanley and illustrator Diane Stanley work together seamlessly to provide a full picture of the last Hawai’ian princess’s childhood, and of her return to her country in its time of need. Written simply, and with the occasional nod to Hawai’ian customs and linguistics, THE LAST PRINCESS is a shallow biography of her life and experiences. Historical and geographical information is provided in one-page prologue and epilogue sections. The illustrator also does a great job of clarifying that the illustrations are imagined rather than factual, including useful information about political customs, local flora, and familial ties within the royal family as well.

The Horn Book: “The story sheds new light on long-forgotten history; the vibrant gouache illustrations establish the lush Hawaiian background and provide historic detail.”

==> Use this book as a jumping-off point for discussing the unique race relations evident in the royal family of Hawai’i. Look at the marriage standards and rules for becoming the ruler in other royal families of this time period. Discuss what Ka’iulani’s experiences might have been like in Europe during her time there.
==> Talk about choices, courage, and responsibility. Why did she go to Washington D.C.? Why did she return to the islands? Do you think getting sick and dieing was also a decision she made? What other choices and responsibilities did Ka’iulani deal with in her lifetime? What sort of choices do you deal with in YOUR life? How do they effect the people around you?

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