Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems

Margarita Engle, illus. by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez. Holt/Godwin, $18.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-62779-531-9
This urgent historical survey by Engle (Dancing Hands) is ambitious in its scope: to tell the story of the lands now known as the United States through a combination of Hispanic voices and fictionalized composites. Starting with the Native Taíno people of Borikén—present-day Puerto Rico—in 1491 and concluding with anti-gun activist Emma González in 2018 Florida, the collection, told in verse, is divided into six parts that track the ebb and flow of borders and their impact on the colonized and occasionally the conquistador. Unfortunately, a lack of contextualizing details leaves many of the poems without clear historical anchors, even as they lean on expository lines (“My wife is the granddaughter of Hernán Cortés,/ who conquered the Aztec emperor Moctezuma”) that outnumber resonant moments. Hernandez’s muralistic illustrations—peopled landscapes, representative maps—provide some emotional resonance. The work is stronger as one of curation, lifting unsung stories and centering Latinx perspectives—for example, the deportation of thousands of American citizens during the Great Depression. Engle makes a case for the necessity of bearing witness to both suffering and survival, and young readers might use her text as a jumping-off point for further reading—and for documenting their own stories. Ages 10–14. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/22/2019
Release date: 10/08/2019
Genre: Children's
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