Book Review: The Lightning Dreamer~Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist

We had another great book group meeting on Monday night! We so appreciate all of you who come out and spend the evening talking about literature with us! Like all of Engle’s other books, this one got nothing but positive reviews from our readers.  With National Poetry Month right around the corner, it’s the perfect book to consider bringing into your classroom for April.

The Lightning DreamerThe Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist
Written by Margarita Engle
Published by Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-0547807430
Age Level: 12 and up


“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.

My thoughts:

I have never been disappointed by one of Margarita Engle’s books and The Lightning Dreamer is no exception.  It’s the fascinating true story of a Cuban woman who worked both for the abolition of slavery and equal rights for women.  My guess is that many of you have never heard of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellanda, I certainly hadn’t.  Engle’s ability to bring to life these lesser known but incredibly important historical characters is part of what makes her work so significant.  Her novels in verse make historical characters like Tula accessible and real to younger readers.  Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

Firefly LettersOver the past several weeks, we have discussed how civil rights impact all people. This week, we would like to turn to a book written by Margarita Engle that puts a different spin on the idea of civil rights. All minority groups have had to fight for their rights, and this includes women. It is also important to note that the fight for civil rights is not specific to the United States. Nearly all countries in Latin America have seen similar movements by minority groups–and these struggles are not necessarily recent. This is evident in Engle’s The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba, a book discussing the women’s rights movement in Cuba in the 19th century.

This book, written in prose, is most suitable for middle grade readers. It tells the story of Fredrika Bremer, a real life suffragette, from Swedish. Engle chronicles Bremer’s real life trip to Cuba in 1851 in this historical fiction. Elena, the daughter of Bremer’s wealthy host family, and Cecelia, a slave, join Bremer in her journey through the Cuban countryside. Engle chronicles the journey of these women and their personal development throughout the book. The Firefly Letters is a 2011 Pura Belpre Honor Book for Narrative.  Continue reading