Kaiulani: The People's Princess Discussion Guide
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
To the Discussion Leader
Princess Kaiulani loved her homeland of Hawaii and its people. Even as a young girl, Kaiulani took seriously her role as the eventual ruler of Hawaii. Her heart broke when she was required to leave her island paradise to be educated in England. Soon letters from back home alerted her to a movement to overthrow the monarchy and have Hawaii annexed by the United States.
In a diplomatic effort that belied her young age, Princess Kaiulani traveled to Washington, D.C. to plead her case to congressmen and ultimately to President Grover Cleveland. Kaiulani convinced Cleveland that the new provisional government that imposed martial law in Hawaii and made her aunt step down as Queen ought to be ousted. Unfortunately, a new presidential election found William McKinley occupying the White House. His support for the annexation of Hawaii by the United States ended the monarchy and the Hawaiian flag was lowered for the last time.
Some one hundred years later in 1993, the United States Congress passed a joint resolution that contained an official apology to the people of Hawaii for what had been done to them years before. For Princess Kaiulani and the royal family of Hawaii, the apology was too late.
On January 5, 1889, Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii writes in her diary, "It is a new year, and yet I'm terribly sad. What I have been dreading for so long will soon happens. I knew this day would come, but I am only thirteen. I thought surely I would have more time here, in the land of my birth." Kaiulani, the only child of Princess Miriam Likelike and Scotsman Archibald Cleghorn, has lived a privileged life on the ten-acre estate given to her at birth by her godmother Auntie Ruth. When Kaiulani is not being tutored, she goes swimming and surfing off Waikiki Beach, feeds her pet peacocks, and rides her beautiful white pony, Fairy. But a shadow falls on the young princess' life when she is eleven. Her beloved mother becomes mysteriously and incurably ill and dies soon after. Still, Kaiulani enjoys the love and attention of her father, aunts, and uncles, one of whom is King Kalakaua. She also becomes acquainted with the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson, a friend of her father. Mr. Stevenson visits often; brings Kaiulani books; and tells her stories of his travels and of the little mouse that shares his house and criticizes his writing. Now the day has come when Kaiulani must leave her island home and travel to England where she is to attend boarding school and become a properly educated young lady. She would like everything to stay the way is it, but as she says, "I must follow the wishes of my family. It is my responsibility. My obligation. My duty."
The voyage across the Pacific Ocean is rough and Kaiulani is seasick and miserable, especially when her father, who has accompanied her, leaves when they arrive in San Francisco. The train takes Kaiulani across America, where the size of Chicago and the throngs of people in New York City amaze her. Finally, after more ocean travel, Kaiulani arrives in England. At first, she hates her school and is terribly homesick, but soon she makes some friends and feels more comfortable there. She is also hopeful that she may return home after a year, but it is eight years before she returns to her homeland.
Back in Hawaii there is political unrest. The haoles (white Americans) have become powerful, taking voting rights away from some Hawaiians and wanting America to annex Hawaii. Such information greatly disturbs Kaiulani, but she is grief-stricken when she learns that King Kalakaua, her uncle whom she calls Papa Moi, has died. Now her aunt Liliuokalani has become Queen, and Kaiulani is next in line to the throne. The new Queen does not rule wisely and is soon overthrown. The monarchy is ended. Realizing she must do something to save her country, Kaiulani decides to travel to the United States to ask President Grover Cleveland to block the annexation of Hawaii. She writes, "I just hope that my resolute efforts will contribute in a small way to the restoration of the monarchy, and our Hawaiian way of life. I can only pray that President Cleveland and Congress will heed my pleas. I have done my best. I can do nothing now, but wait. I can do no more."
Thinking About the Book
- Describe Kaiulani's life at Ainahau, her family's home. What kind of education did she have? What are some of the duties expected of Kaiulani as a princess? What did she do for fun?
- How was Kaiulani's life in England different from her early years? What did she like most about living there? Least?
- Why do you think the author of Kaiulani's diary, Ellen Emerson White, called her "the people's princess?"
- What were the last words Kaiulani's mother spoke before she died? Did those final words come true?
- If Princess Kaiulani had been given the chance to become Queen, do you think she would have made a good ruler? Explain why or why not.
- Identify the following and discuss what role each played in Kaiulani: The People's Princess.
*President Grover Cleveland
*Sanford B. Dole
- On February 8, 1893, Kaiulani writes, "I feel my life is over before it has even really begun." What does she mean?
- On a map trace Kaiulani's journey from Honolulu to London, across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco, then by train to Chicago and New York, and on board ship to Liverpool, England, then to Manchester and on to London. What do you think impressed her the most?
- Kaiulani and Robert Louis Stevenson were such good friends that he wrote her a farewell poem when she left for England. Read some of his other poems such as those contained in A Child's Garden of Verses, or read one of his novels Kaiulani enjoyed so much like Treasure Island which the Princess said was "the best story ever." Discuss your reactions to this classic with other members of your discussion group. Do you agree with the Princess or not?
- In Hawaii, people have a special feast, called a luau. Plan a luau. Decorate with fresh flowers. Make leis. Serve Hawaiian food. Listen to Hawaiian music, particularly "Aloha Oe," the song written by Kaiulani's Aunt Lydia. Dance the hula. Play ukuleles.
- There are several other books for young readers about Princess Kaiulani. Read The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i written by Fay Stanley and illustrated by Diane Stanley. Compare and contrast this book with Kaiulani's Royal Diary. How are the stories similar? How do they differ?
- In her diary entry of February 2, 1893 Princess Kaiulani writes, "The Americans have finally managed to steal our country from us." In your groups, discuss whether or not you think this statement is true and why you feel the way you do.
- Princess Kaiulani says she learned that newspapers "are not always accurate." With the help of a librarian or your teacher, see if you can find some examples that demonstrate Kaiulani's observation is true.
Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston and Eleanore S. Tyson, Ed.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Houston, Texas.