Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

Engle, Margarita. 2010. THE FIREFLY LETTERS; A SUFFRAGETTE'S JOURNEY TO CUBA. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 9780805090826 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-9]

In Engle’s fourth historical work in verse, she brings together three memorable female characters from different strata of society as they grapple with issues of freedom and choice. Based on primary sources from Swedish suffragist Fredrika Bremer and set in Cuba in 1851, Engle once again offers multiple overlapping dramatic points of view captured in the most lyrical imagery and language.

Intermediate readers will be drawn to the three feminine perspectives: the free-thinking adult, the privileged “princess,” and the servant girl. They may also be surprised at the conclusion and which individual makes which sacrifices. The story moves quickly while painting sympathetic portraits of contradictory social situations.

Engle’s focus on the roles of girls and women against a backdrop of cultural expectations and economic limitations parallels many of the struggles in another novel in verse, Crossing Stones by Helen Frost and for older readers, the novel Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman. Look for more poetry by poets of the Caribbean such as Monica Gunning, Lynn Joseph and James Berry. Also, students can create digital trailers using archival photos, period music, and evocative voiceovers to bring her works to life.

Other novels in verse by Margarita Engle:
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. ISBN 9780805077063
The Surrender Tree. ISBN 0805086749
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba. ISBN 9780805089363
The Firefly Letters; A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba. ISBN 9780805090826
Hurricane Dancers; The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. ISBN 9780805092400

By Sylvia M. Vardell

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