Books About Latin America


THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA
A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano

A lyrical biography of a Cuban slave who escaped to become a celebrated poet.

Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama, even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education, young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world, but they also expose its hideous cruelty.

Powerful, haunting poems and breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope.

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Honors:

  • Pura Belpré Medal
  • Américas Award
  • International Reading Association Children’s Book Award
  • International Reading Association Teachers’ Choice
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts
  • Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year
  • New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice
  • Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Bank Street College of Education Selection List of Reading Aloud With Children Twelve and Older

 


THE SURRENDER TREE
Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom

Who could have guessed that after all these years,
the boy I called Lieutenant Death
when we were both children
would still be out here, in the forest,
chasing me, now,
hunting me, haunting me . . .

It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not free. People have been rounded up in concentration camps with too little food and too much illness.
Rosa is a nurse, but with a price on her head for helping the rebels, she dares not go to the camps. Instead, she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her. Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war?

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This book is also available in bilingual English and Spanish translation.

Honors:

  • Newbery Honor
  • Pura Belpré Award
  • Américas Award
  • Jane Addams Award
  • Claudia Lewis Poetry Award
  • Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • ALA Notable Book
  • NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Book
  • Amelia Bloomer Book
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice
  • Kansas State Reading Circle
  • Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award Master List
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Finalist - Once Upon a Word Children's Book Award, Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Library
  • Bank Street College of Education Selection List of Reading Aloud With Children Twelve and Older
  • ALSC Notable Books

 


TROPICAL SECRETS
Holocaust Refugees in Cuba

Daniel has escaped Nazi Germany with nothing but a desperate dream that he might one day find his parents again. But that golden land called New York has turned away his ship full of refugees, and Daniel finds himself in Cuba.

As the tropical island begins to work its magic on him, the young refugee befriends a local girl with some painful secrets of her own. Yet even in Cuba, the Nazi darkness is never far away . . .

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Honors:

  • Sydney Taylor Award
  • Paterson Prize
  • Américas Award
  • Jane Addams Award Commendation
  • New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults Nominee
  • California Teachers Association Recommended Book

 


THE FIREFLY LETTERS
A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.

In this quietly powerful new book, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a portrait of early women’s rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life.

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Honors:

  • Pura Belpré Honor
  • Jane Addams Award Finalist
  • California Book Award Finalist
  • International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society
  • Américas Award Honor
  • NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Book
  • Amelia Bloomer Book
  • TAYSHAS Choice
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • ALSC 2011 Notable Children's Book

 


SUMMER BIRDS
The Butterflies of Maria Merian
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(picture book)

In the Middle Ages, people believed that insects were evil, born from mud in a process called spontaneous generation. Maria Merian was only a child, but she disagreed. She watched carefully as caterpillars spun themselves cocoons, which opened to reveal summer birds, or butterflies and moths. Maria studied the whole life cycle of the summer birds, and documented what she learned in vibrant paintings.

This is the story of one young girl who took the time to observe and learn, and in so doing disproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece.

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Honors:

  • Kirkus Best Books for Children
  • NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Book
  • Amelia Bloomer Book

 


HURRICANE DANCERS
The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck

Quebrado has been traded from pirate ship to ship in the Caribbean Sea for as long as he can remember. The sailors he toils under call him el quebrado—half islander, half outsider, a broken one. Now the pirate captain Bernardino de Talavera uses Quebrado as a translator to help navigate the worlds and words between his mother’s Taíno Indian language and his father’s Spanish.

But when a hurricane sinks the ship and most of its crew, it is Quebrado who escapes to safety. He learns how to live on land again, among people who treat him well. And it is he who must decide the fate of his former captors.

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Honors:

  • 2012 Pura Belpré Author Honor
  • 2012 Américas Award Winner
  • ALSC 2012 Notable Children's Book for older readers
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults nominee
  • Poetry for Children Blog's Top 20 Most Distinctive Books of Poetry 2011
  • 2012 White Ravens List
  • 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People

 


THE WILD BOOK

Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness, or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping and hopping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them?

But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. "Think of it as a garden," she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at first, then growing stronger and surer with each new day. And when her family is threatened, it is what Fefa has learned from her wild book that saves them.

The Wild Book is a novel in verse inspired by stories told by Margarita's grandmother about her childhood. The gorgeous cover is illustrated by talented multiple Pura Belpré winning illustrator, Yuyi Morales.

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Honors:

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THE LIGHTNING DREAMER
Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist

“I find it so easy to forget / that I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.”

Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula.

In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute.

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Honors:

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Coming Soon in 2014

SILVER PEOPLE
Voices from the Panama Canal

Margarita's upcoming book,Silver People, Voices From the Panama Canal will feature Raúl Colón's spectacular cover art.
This book will be publish in the U.S by Harcourt, in Australia and New Zealand by University Press.

Silver People has been selected as one of Junior Library Guild selection in their Spring 2014 catalog.

Honors:

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