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Finding One’s Center: Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle

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As the year is about to end, we are scrambling to finish all the reading challenges that we joined since the beginning of 2012. Here’s another contribution to the novel-in-verse challenge and perfect as well for our bimonthly theme on Stream of Stories and Whispering Water Tales.

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Historical Notes. Margarita Engle is one of our absolute favorites here in GatheringBooks (see our Storyteller Feature in Behind the Books). I love how she is able to interweave historical notes with her distinct poetic voice that captures the soul of an emotion so beautifully. In the Author’s Note, she wrote that while the main character, Quebrado, is an invented character the others are actual historical figures such as Bernardino de Talavera, the first pirate of the Caribbean sea and Alonso de Ojeda, reputed to be among the first Europeans to capture Indians and sell them as slaves.

This book is also special to Margarita for the very reason that one of her ancestors was a “Cuban Pirate who used his treasure to buy the cattle ranch where many generations of my mother’s family were born.” Among the many things that I am amazed in Margarita’s storytelling is how she expertly brings herself into her narrative without getting lost in it, finding bits and pieces of herself perhaps in her imagined worlds and sharing that entire experience with the reader who also sees herself in it.

Voices that Spoke to me. I just knew at the time that I received the book as a present from Margarita herself a year ago that I would fall in love with it.

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It found me early this month at a time when I felt the most vulnerable and spoke to me in a voice like no other. I managed to finish this book within one night. It has solidified my notion that books find their way into your hands at a time when you need them. Rather than share with you the plot or the storyline or even a summary of the story, allow me to share a few verse that pierced my soul. I took a photo of the page and edited it using an iPhone app to include these images. This one is the voice of Quebrado, the protagonist, a boy slave who has been traded from ship to ship in the Caribbean sea.

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The following verse is spoken through the voice of the young girl Caucubú as she describes how she feels about her lover Naridó. My eyes are filled with the knowledge of how longing is magnified by life’s hurricanes, the elusive nature of peace, and that finding one’s center does not always mean a happy ever after for most.

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Suffice it to say that all the ingredients for a fast-paced novel-in-verse can be found here:

a young man finding his way in the universe belonging to no one, not even himself, seeking his center;

young lovers who are desperate to be with each other, unmindful of their family’s disapproval;

war and madness, pirates and conquerors;

finding one’s courage in smoky-blue roan mares and redemption through trials by sphere games;

and discovering that ‘far light’ within and listening to our heart’s song – amidst the confused darkness surrounding us.

Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck by Margarita Engle. Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2011.

NovelinVerseNovel in Verse Reading Challenge Update: 10 of 10

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2012 Pura Belpré Author Honor
ALSC 2012 Notable Children’s Book for older readers
ALA Best Books for Young Adults nominee
Poetry for Children Blog’s Top 20 Most Distinctive Books of Poetry 2011

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 129 (35)

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2 comments on “Finding One’s Center: Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle

  1. Hi Myra, I’ve never heard of this book so will look for it. It sounds wonderful, & for the older adolescent girls to enjoy at school. Thank you!

  2. [...] 12 and 13 are roughly the same questions, but I’d probably go for Margarita Engle’s Hurricane Dancers for the simple fact that some of the words spoke to my soul – it was not the entire narrative [...]

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