What’s on Our Nightstands: Margarita Engle’s “The Wild Book”


A Kirkus Best Children’s Book of 2012, Margarita Engle’s The Wild Book (2012) caught my eye after posting about her most recent book, The Lightning Dreamer (2013). I am fascinated by the author’s ability to blend official history, personal anecdotes passed on through generations, and social/didactic content.

A verse novel for ages 10 and up, The Wild Book was inspired by stories that Engle’s grandmother told her about her childhood on her family’s farm near Trinidad de Cuba. During the early twentieth century, she grew up with the turmoil that followed the post Spanish-American War occupation. She also suffered the inner turmoil of dyslexia, struggling to learn how to read. As an enthusiast of children’s books from (or about) the Caribbean, I just had to get this book. Now I am awaiting The Lightning Dreamer and The Firefly Letters.

Book 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. 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.

Margarita Engle is a Cuban American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She is the author of young adult nonfiction books and novels in verse.

Other books to look out for (among her award-winning works): The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano; The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom; Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba; and one that I can’t wait to read: The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba.

For more information, see http://margaritaengle.com/index.html, http://us.macmillan.com/author/margaritaengle, and http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Book-Ms-Margarita-Engle/dp/0547581319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371924325&sr=1-1

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