February 23, 2009

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:54 pm by suebe2

surrenderThe Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom (AR 6 . 4 )

by Margarita Engle

Henry Holt

With this book winning the Pura Belpre Author Award and a Newbery Honor, I expected great things.  It exceeded my expectations.

Poet and author Margarita Engle gives young readers a glimpse of the fight for Cuban independence from Spain.  She starts with Cuba solidly under Spanish rule and then moves to the actual rebellion, from the freeing of slaves by Cuban planters to Spanish soldiers who are little more than boys and U.S. involvement.  While there are four point-of-view characters, the main character is Rosa who enters the story as a young slave learning to heal.  Rosa’s life mirrors the story of Cuba as she hides from those who would harm her, helps those who need her whether they are ex-slaves or Spanish soldiers, and struggles to keep all alive with little but hope.

Holt markets the book for ages 12 and up and my library shelves it in the teen section.   The talk of war, battles and concentration camps is straight forward without being graphic.

Although I studied Latin American history in college, I learned a great deal from this book.  For example, I had never heard of concentration camps in Cuba.  Engle includes a list of references and I intend to add several, perhaps even one or two in Spanish, to my shelves.

–SueBE

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