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The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist Reprint Edition
Contributor(s): Engle, Margarita
ISBN: 054454112X     ISBN-13: 9780544541122
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    OUR PRICE: $7.19  
Product Type: Paperback - Other Formats
Published: September 2015
Annotation: A historical novel in verse by the Newbery Honor-winning author of The Surrender Tree presents the story of poet, abolitionist and women's rights pioneer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of 14 and was ultimately courageous enough to use her passionate, metaphorical verses to protest slavery in the dangerous political environment of 19th-century Cuba. Includes historical notes, excerpts and source notes. 15,000 first printing.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Novels in verse.
Authors; Fiction.
Feminists; Fiction.
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: bl2015036242
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 7-9, Age 12-14
Book type: Juvenile Non-Fiction
Physical Information: 8.00" H x 5.50" W x 0.50" (0.36 lbs) 182 pages
Scholastic Reading Counts Info
Quiz #: Q64779
Reading Level: 9.6   Interest Level: Grades 6-8   Point Value: 5.0
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall)
At thirteen, Tula wonders "how many slaves / Mama will buy with the money / she gains by marrying me to / the highest bidder." Loosely based on the early life of Cuban writer Gertrudis Gsmez de Avellaneda (1814 73), this lyrical verse novel highlights Tula's need to write and her struggle for self-determination. A note sorts fact from fiction and samples Avellaneda's poetry.

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #3)
"So sorry that I am not / the sort of daughter / my mother can love," laments Tula. At thirteen, she wonders "how many slaves / Mamá will buy with the money / she gains by marrying me to / the highest bidder." Mamá herself twice thwarted her wealthy father by marrying for love; now, however, she schemes to regain her inheritance through her unwilling daughter. Tula's love is language -- the banned words of the poet Heredia "refusing to accept / the existence of slavery" and her own words, "I don't want to be a man, / just a woman / with a voice." Loosely based on the early life of the Cuban novelist and human rights advocate Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814-73), this novel in verse follows Tula for the three years that take her into open rebellion and its first consequences; there's also a glimpse of her living independently, as a poet, seven years later. Tula's desperate need to write and her struggle for self-determination resemble that of Pablo Neruda in Pam Muñoz Ryan's splendid The Dreamer (rev. 3/10). Brief, lyrical observations from others -- Mamá, a beloved brother, the nuns who nurture Tula's creative gift -- add dimension to Tula's own voice and the nineteenth-century Cuban setting. "Words / can be as human / as people, / alive / with the breath / of compassion," says the eloquent former slave Caridad. In Engle's able hands, they are just that. A historical note sorts fact from fiction and samples Avellaneda's poetry. joanna rudge long

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2013 January)

Gr 6 Up—Engle has produced a fabulous work of historical fiction about Cuban poet, author, antislavery activist and feminist Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda. Written in free verse, the story tells of how Tula, which was her childhood nickname, grows up in libraries, which she calls "a safe place to heal/and dream…," influenced by the poetry of José María Heredia. In Tula's voice, Engle writes, "Books are door shaped/portals/carrying me/across oceans/and centuries,/helping me feel/less alone." She takes elements from Avellaneda's novel Sab, which is believed to be autobiographical, and creates a portrait of a girl "expected/to live/without thoughts" who will not be forced into an arranged marriage, and who falls in love with a man who wants her to marry the suitor of the woman he has always loved. Tula speaks out against slavery and arranged marriages, finding them both a form of imprisonment. Engle inhabits the voices of various characters from the story, including Avellaneda's mother, who loses her inheritance because of Tula's refusal to accept an arranged marriage, and who ultimately banishes her to live with an uncle.

I have always been a little leery of novels in verse because, if there is no artistic reason for the story to take that format, the verse form seems to be little more than a gimmick. Engle is writing historical fiction about a real Cuban poet, and she convinces readers that the story couldn't be told any other way.

Activity Ideas: This book is ideal for literature units and can be used across the curriculum. Students can read this as an entry point to the history of Cuba, the issues of slavery and feminism, and Avellaneda's prose and poetry itself. Engle's book lends itself to teaching, and her appendix includes a bibliography of titles that kids will want to explore and research.

[Page 54]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2013 June)

Gr 6–10—Engle adds another superb title to her lengthening list of historical novels in verse. In The Lightning Dreamer, she brings to life the story of Cuban abolitionist and writer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda. Tula, a 13-year-old with big thoughts, lives in fear of her encroaching betrothal. "My mother and grandfather are already planning to auction me away to the highest-bidding rich man," she rues. Even in such a simple statement, Engle metaphorically ties Tula's story to the plight of those for whom she's most concerned, the enslaved. Tula's dread of a loveless arranged marriage is second only to her fear that she'll be shackled to a slave owner. Whenever possible, she steals away to surreptitiously pour her thoughts out onto the page, an activity thought to be unsuitable for a young woman. Engle paints a vivid picture of Tula's world and summons her unique voice across the ages through clear, poignant verse. Historical notes at the book's end include brief biographies of Avellaneda and her idol, the Cuban poet José María Heredia, replete with excerpts of her writing. These excerpts provide readers with a direct sense of Avellaneda's style while evidencing how masterfully Engle has evoked her voice throughout the preceding verse. This is a must-have for collections where Engle's other works are known and loved or for anyone in need of a comparative study to our own country's struggle with slavery.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

[Page 120]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.