Book Review: Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle

HurricaneDancers

Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle

Engle’s latest historical novel in verse explores piracy in the Caribbean Sea in the 1500s.  It is the story of Quebrado, a fictionalized character, who is a slave aboard a pirate ship.  Also on the ship is Alonso de Ojeda who has been captured.  That ship, owned by real historical figure Bernardino de Talavera, becomes shipwrecked.  The story is populated by people from history, but told primarily through the voice of Quebrado.  It is a pirate story that removes the swashbuckling glamour and tells the bitter truth about what piracy was.

Engle captures such emotion in her verse, creating moments of pain, wonder and even delight in this brutal story.  The book is immensely engaging, thanks to its brisk pace and lively subject matter.  There is adventure and even a touch of romance in this story, giving light in the darkness of slavery and piracy. 

Engle pays close attention to the native people of the islands, allowing glimpses into their lives and their beliefs.  They make a great foil to the lying, manipulations of the pirates.  It is a story that is elegantly crafted and vividly written.

A great choice for late elementary and middle school students who are interested in history and pirates.  This is a book that is fast, fascinating and fabulous.  Appropriate for ages 11-14.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by:

Book Review: Perfect Square by Michael Hall

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Perfect Square by Michael Hall

One perfect square is transformed again and again into something surprising and new.  On Monday, the square had holes poked in it and was cut into pieces, so it became a fountain.  On Tuesday, the square was torn into scraps, so it became a garden.  Shredded strips became a park.  Shattered shards became a bridge.  Ribbons with curves became a river.  Wrinkles and crumples became a mountain.  Until finally, the square was just a square again and had to find a way to change within its four sides.  The result?  Triumphant!

This very simple premise offers small children a glimpse at art and inspiration.  It celebrates creativity, creating something new from something ripped, crumpled or sliced.  Hall sets the perfect tone with his brief text, allowing the images to do most of the work in the book.  My favorite part of the text is that the square is the one reinventing itself rather than an outside force doing the creativity.  It changes the dynamic of the book entirely.

I can see so many art project emerging from this book.  Get it into the hands of elementary art teachers in your school district!  If you enjoy crafts with your preschool story times, share some squares of paper in a variety of colors, offer scissors, hole punches, markers and more.  You just wait to see what those children create!  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Fuse #8 and There’s a Book.