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Tropical Secrets


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About the Author

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 including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor Book, The Poet Slave of Cuba, Hurricane Dancers, and The Firefly Letters. She lives in northern California.


Gr 6-10-Succinct free verse poems (Holt, 2009) by Margarita Engle relate this interesting, little known piece of world history. After Kristallnacht, pogroms staged in 1938 by the Nazis against the Jews in Germany, Daniel's parents have just enough money to buy him a ticket and get him out of the country. Daniel, 13, arrives in Cuba in 1939 aboard a refugee ship that was first turned away from Canada and then from the U.S. The boy is one of the thousands of Jews to receive sanctuary in Cuba during the Holocaust. After Pearl Harbor, Cuban officials grow concerned about espionage and imprison German Christians. The red "J" on Daniel's passport that condemned him in Germany, ironically saves him now. An older Russian Jewish refugee, David, and a young Cuban girl, Paloma, befriend Daniel and the three work together to try to save an elderly couple from persecution. Paloma has secrets and her father, El Gordo, is a corrupt official who defrauds refugees and holds them hostage to his greedy monetary demands. The full-cast narration gives an authentic and distinct voice to each character and will engage listeners. This is historical fiction at its best. A personal note read by the author relates the history of the era and her own family story.-Patricia McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"This book is an outstanding choice for young people of all reading skills. Reluctant readers will be encouraged by the open layout and brief text, and everyone will be captivated by the eloquent poems and compelling characters." --School Library Journal, starred review"Engle gracefully packs a lot of information into a spare and elegant narrative that will make this historical moment accessible to a wide range of readers." --Publishers Weekly"Engle's tireless drive to give voice to the silenced in Cuban history provides fresh options for young readers." --Kirkus Reviews"As in The Poet Slave of Cuba (2006) and The Surrender Tree (2008), both selected as Booklist Editors' Choice titles, Engle's latest book tells another story set in Cuba of those left out of the history books. In fluid, clear, free verse, two young people speak in alternating personal narratives...the international secrets make for a gripping story about refugees that becomes sharply focused through the viewpoint of the boy wrenched from home, haunted by the images of shattered glass and broken family." --Booklist"This moving free-verse historical novel tells the tale of thirteen-year-old Daniel, a Jewish refugee who escapes Nazi Germany in 1939 in hopes of finding safety abroad...the emphasis on the inner life of the characters gives the narrative an emotional drama that transcends its period." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books"Readers who think they might not like a novel in verse will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly and smoothly the story flows...The book will provide great fodder for discussion of the Holocaust, self-reliance, ethnic and religious bias, and more." --VOYA

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