¡Mira Look!: Margarita Engle

Today’s ¡MirMargaritaa Look! posts highlights acclaimed author, poet and journalist, Margarita Engle. Our January book group will be studying her Hurricane Dancers, The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck and I thought it appropriate to give our faithful readers some information on this outstanding author. Continue reading


Here’s another great review of The Surrender Tree – complete with excerpts and teaching materials!

Gathering Books

Last week for Nonfiction Monday, we shared Margarita Engle’s The Firefly Letters. Today, we share another one of her novel-in-verse: The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom.

I find her voice so authentic and oh-so-perfect for our bimonthly theme on poetics and verse and also for Nonfiction Monday which is hosted this week by Diane Chen from Practically Paradise.

Various Voices in Verse. In this multi-award winning book by Margarita Engle, we hear a variety of voices as we witness Cuba’s struggle for independence. Foremost is the voice of an actual historical figure in Cuba, Rosario Castellanos Castellanos, known as Rosa la Bayamesa.

There is also the voice of her husband Jose Francisco Varona; a slavehunter known as Lieutenant Death (Teniente Muerte); Captain-General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, Marquis of Tenerife, Empire of Spain; and a fictional character created by Engle somewhere at the end…

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Book Review: The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom

"The Surrender Tree," written by Margarita Engle.The Surrender Tree is a unique novel, both for its content and its style.  It tells the story of an often overlooked or overshadowed period in early Cuban history when the country was embroiled in three different wars for independence between 1868-1898.  In an unexpected move, the author, Margarita Engle, chooses to tell the story in verse form.  Now, I have to admit to some hesitancy and a little bit of dread when I realized the novel was written in free verse.  Yet, I was captivated by the story almost immediately, finishing it in an afternoon. Continue reading

Check out this blog entry from Teen Book Review. It has a great discussion of The Surrender Tree.

Teen Book Review

The Surrender Tree is a verse novel based on the actual events and actual historical figures in the Cuban struggle for independence (despite the publisher’s classification of this one as non-fiction, it is definitely historical fiction). It is a story I was not too familiar with, so I did learn some history, or at least refresh my memory of these events.  It is about Rosa, a slave freed by an owner who rebelled against Spain and said that freedom only existed when everyone shared in it. She healed the injured during Cuba’s three wars for independence, hiding out in the mountains and forests and caves, healing not only the sick and injured Cuban rebels, but also the Spanish soldiers–anyone who needed healing.

There are also poems told from the perspectives of the other people in Rosa’s life, but she is the common thread of the story and narrates her fair…

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Our Next Good Read. . .The Surrender Tree

Join us April 2nd at Bookworks from 5:00-7:00 for our next book group discussion.  We will be discussing Margarita Engle’s, The Surrender Tree.  If you’re not familiar with it, definitely check it out.  It’s quite a unique book. It’s a novel written in verse–perfect for National Poetry Month!! It’s also a really engaging way to introduce your students to early Cuban History.  We can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

If you couldn’t make it to our March meeting, be sure to let us know what you thought about Before we were Free by commenting on a post.  We want to know what you think about the book!! If you’ve used it in your classroom, let us know how it went!

Happy Reading!