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Leyla: The Black Tulip (Girls of Many Lands) Hardcover – September, 2003


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Gr. 6-8. In her adult title Harem: The World behind the Veil (1989), Croutier explored the Grand Harem in Istanbul's Tokapi Palace, and she returns to this evocative setting in her first novel for young people. To support her impoverished family, 12-year-old Leyla sells herself to Ottoman marriage brokers passing through her native Caucasus Mountains, but she quickly learns that she has been purchased to be a slave, not a bride. At auction, lucky coincidences land her in the Grand Harem of the Padishah, where she becomes a skilled gardener and artist--talents that lead to rare opportunities and friendships. Leyla's first-person voice evokes the physical beauty of life in "the Golden Cage" with engaging detail, but like Leyla, readers will find themselves confused by the more "adult" aspects of harem life (such as the eunuchs) that are left unexplained. Many of the plot twists are also far-fetched. Yet, the opulent setting, gripping survival story, and the chaste romance with a handsome, benevolent prince have the power to draw in an audience. Gillian Engberg
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Series: Girls of Many Lands
  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: American Girl (September 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584858311
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584858317
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,348,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alev Lytle Croutier is the most widely published woman novelist of Turkish origin whose books have been translated into 23 languages.
Croutier was born in Izmir, Turkey, studied Literature at Robert College in Istanbul, Art History at Oberlin College,and film Studies at NYU. She has written and directed films in Japan, Turkey, Europe, and the US and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (the first ever for a screenplay)for "Tell Me a Riddle," based on Tillie Olsen's acclaimed novel.
Croutier also founded Mercury House publishing company in San Francisco and served as the executive editor for almost a decade--editing numerous books, and actively supporting writers in diverse cultures, including Nobel recepients, in getting published.
Croutier has been in numerous radio shows and TV documentaries. She has also taught at Dartmouth, Goddard, and San Francisco State Universities and lectures frequently at academic institutions, museums, libraries, and conferences on Orientalism, Middle Eastern women, harems, and Turkish culture.


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. S. Will on June 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Part of a "Girls of Many Lands" series, this volume tells of a girl from the Caucasus who is sold into a sultan's harem in Istanbul. It is set during the Ottoman Empire's brief Tulip Period-a golden age-in the early 1700s.
Croutier possesses excellent credentials for interpreting Turkey's cultural history for young readers. Raised in Turkey, she has written two novels (adult level) set in that country, as well as the non-fictional "Harem: The World Behind the Veil."
In "Leyla," the protagonist spends her early years in the Caucasus, learning to paint from her artist-father and to garden from her mother. When war broke out between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, Leyla's father was mustered into the army and is now assumed missing. Leyla believes she will keep her mother and three siblings from starving by selling herself to men claiming they'll find her a wealthy husband-in far-off Istanbul.
Leyla soon learns she has been sold into slavery; she is eventually purchased to become part of the sultan's harem. At the sumptuous Topkapi Palace, she is assigned to work in the flower gardens.
The ending is marred by an incredulous array of serendipitous happenings. A handsome, young prince befriends Leyla and arranges for her to teach art. During the Tulip Festival, she wins the sultan's favor as well as a hefty prize for her green thumb. Then she learns her father is alive and working in the palace! And much more!
Despite this, the story is engaging and does provide a good picture of life in a harem, where women are physically protected, even pampered, yet deprived of basic freedoms and subject to the jealousies and intrigues of a highly politicized setting.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Claire on November 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
I'm kind of old to be reading American Girl books, and I always hated the boring-and-blah books about the American Girls of Yesterday, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I was babysitting for an 11-year-old and her copy was on the coffee table, so I started to read it and couldn't put it down. It isn't slow to get started and it has a very interesting storyline. The fact that it was written by a woman who grew up in Turkey makes the narration that much more authentic and engaging. Even though the age recommendation is 9-12, I didn't find the writing style patronizing at all. I'm interested now to see what the other books in the "Girls of Many Lands" series are like.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Erika Sorocco on March 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
The year is 1720. Twelve-year-old Leyla has always been privy to a happy lifestyle in Istanbul. The daughter of a magnificent painter, Leyla's existence has been one full of art, culture, gardening, and love. She is passionate about her family, and thrives on tending her garden where she grows the most amazing flowers. But when her father heads off to war to paint the battle scenes and never returns, Leyla's life changes drastically.

Leyla could have never imagined that when she kissed her father goodbye on that fateful day, that she would never see him again. But as the months pass, there is no sign of her father, and Leyla can't help but feel dreadful. But feeling sorry for herself is out of the question; especially with the shambles that her family is in. Since her father's departure, there is little to no food, and the cold is so strong that Leyla and her family often find themselves sleeping side-by-side in a little ball, just to stay warm. He only consolation for her family's troubles is the work she does in her garden. There she has begun to grow flowers of all different shapes, sizes, and colors. But her most prized flower is the tulip. Legend has it that no one has ever been able to grow a black tulip. Leyla is determined to do just that. But she is forced to put her dreams on the backburner when her family's troubles begin to worsen. Soon she finds herself at Topkapi Palace, a newcomer to the royal harem. When her talent for gardening surfaces, however, Leyla is placed under the guidance of the Mistress of the Flowers. It is here where she secretly plants the special tulips she has brought with her from her home. Now her only worry is what will happen to her if the tulip bulbs are discovered.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Leyla: the Black Tulip is about a young girl named Laleena, who is living in Georgia near the Caucasus Mountains with her mother and three siblings. Her father was a painter and went to war and never came back. One day, two men come and suggest to Laleena's mother that her daughter could go to Istanbul for the chance of marriage. Laleena's family is poor, and her mother knows that the money could help their family a lot, but instead she says no. Laleena hears the whole discussion, and knows that it would be best to go, so in the middle of the night, she sneaks out and gets on the boat to Istanbul. It is a long ride from Georgia to Istanbul, but Laleena meets a friend named Lena. Laleena serves as a mother figure to Lena and cares for her greatly. It turns out that all of the girls on the ship are not going to Istanbul to find a husband, but to be sold as slaves! Laleena is bought by a man, and taken to the Topkapi Palace, where she is forced to change identities and become "Leyla". At the palace, she is told to work in the gardens (something she enjoys very much), and spends time specializing in the tulips. When it is time for the Tulip Festival, the sultan announced that if anyone could grow a black tulip, they would receive a large amount of gold as an award. Leyla tries as hard as she can to nurture her tulip bulbs and win the prize. Will Leyla produce the black tulip? Will she ever see her father or Lena again? You can find out if you read Leyla: the Black Tulip.
This book is a great story about a girl learning to be independent. It is an intriguing story that you can learn a lot from. It made me think about how tough it would be to live in a palace back then. Any girl that reads this book will love it.
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