Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is an award-winning author of books for children, young adults, and adults. The daughter of an American father and Cuban mother, Engle spent her childhood summers in Cuba, where she developed a deep bond with her extended family and a lifelong passion for tropical nature, which led her to study agronomy and botany, along with creative writing. Engle and her family were visting Cuba in 1960 when diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba broke down, and faced a number of obstacles in returning to the U.S. From that point on, communication with her extended family was restricted and she describes the experience of suddenly losing contact with her beloved extended family and grandmother as something out of "science fiction."  Engle began to read about Cuban history, which led her to discover a number of the forgetten characters and events featured in her award-winning novels written in verse for young adults.

Books by This Author

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

Hurricane Dancers

Age Level: 12-14

"Young Quebrado's name means 'the broken one,' a child 'of two shattered worlds.' The son of a Taíno Indian mother and a Spanish father, he is taken in 1510 from his village on the island that is present-day Cuba and enslaved on a pirate's ship, where a brutal conquistador, responsible for thousands of deaths throughout the Americas, is held captive for ransom. When a hurricane destroys the boat, Quebrado is pulled from the water by a fisherman, Naridó, whose village welcomes him, but escape from the past proves nearly impossible." — Gillian Engberg, Booklist

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

Illustrated by: Julie Paschkis
Age Level: 3-6

Butterflies were once thought to be "beasts of the devil." Maria Merian, a perceptive young German naturalist, knew better. She recorded her notes and drawings on the butterflies' transformation in secret so that she would not be accused of witchcraft and later became a famous scientist and artist who helped the rest of the world understand natural life cycles. Margarita Engle brings her extraordinary story to life, accompanied by Julie Paschkis' gorgeous illustrations.

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

Age Level: 12-14

Meet Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish suffragette who traveled the world and visited Cuba in 1851. Where other visitors might have been most interested in basking in the luxury of plantation owners, Fredrika sets out to learn about the slaves, free blacks, and poor whites, documenting her experiences in letters and diaries. Margarita Engle has transformed those writings into an intriguing novel written in verse with special attention paid to Cecilia, Fredika's bright young translator, as well as the overlapping struggles to end slavery and expand women's rights. Pura Belpré Honor Award.

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist

Age Level: 12-14

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 free verse, 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.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom

Age Level: 14-16

Winner of the Pura Belpré Award and a Newbery Honor Book, The Surrender Tree tells the haunting story of Rosa, a freed Cuban slave at the time of Cuba's third War of Independence from Spain. Rather than enjoy her freedom, she hides in the forest in order to tend the wounded with wild plants. Written in verse, Rosa's vivid description of the healing plants and tragedies of war will mesmerize readers long after they turn the final page. Bilingual edition available.

The Wild Book

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: 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. 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.

Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: 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.