Review: The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

lightning dreamer

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle, award-winning author of verse novels, continues her stories of Cuba.  In this book, she explores the life of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, also known as Tula, who becomes a revolutionary Cuban poet.  Raised to be married off to save the family financially, Tula even as a young girl relates more closely with slaves and the books she is reading than with girls of her own age and her own social standing.  As she reads more and more, sheltered by both her younger brother and the nuns at the convent, Tula starts to explore revolutionary ideas about freedom for slaves and for women.  In a country that is not free, Tula herself is not free either and is forced to confront an arranged marriage, the brutality of slavery, and find her own voice.

Engle writes verse novels with such a beauty that they are impossible to put down.  Seemingly light confections of verse, they are actually strong, often angry and always powerful.  Here, Engle captures the way that girls are asked to sacrifice themselves for their families, the importance of education for young women, and the loss of self.  She doesn’t shy away from issues of slavery either.  At it’s heart though, this novel is about the power of words to free people, whether that is Tula herself, her brother or a family slave and friend.

Highly recommended, this is another dazzling and compelling novel from a master poet.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

2013 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards

The Ezra Jack Keats Awards “recognize and encourage authors and illustrators starting out in the field of children’s books.”  The New Writer Award started in 1985 with the New Illustrator Award following in 2001.  Here are the 2013 award winners:


New Writer Award Winner

Julie Fogliano for And Then It’s Spring

New Illustrator Award Winner

Hyewon Yum for Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten


Honorable Mentions


New Writer Honor

Mara Rockliff for My Heart Will Not Sit Down

Jennifer Lanthier for The Stamp Collector

Don Tate for It Jes’ Happened


New Illustrator Honor

K. G. Campbell for Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters

Sanjay Patel for Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

(My apologies for not having links to Goodreads, the site is currently down.)