cover image Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck

Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck

Margarita Engle, Holt, $16.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9240-0

Newbery Honor–winner Engle (The Surrender Tree) continues to find narrative treasure in Cuban history. Like her other novels in verse, this one is told in multiple voices (too many, in fact), some based on historical figures. The action takes place in the early 16th century aboard a pirate ship captained by Bernardino de Talavera, a failed landowner who literally worked his Taíno farmhands to death then, rather than face prison, stole a ship and became the first pirate of the Caribbean. He kidnaps an orphaned boy to translate for him and takes a hostage—the powerful governor of Venezuela, whose actions in the New World have been as despicable as Talavera's. After a storm wrecks the ship, all three wash up on Cuba's coast among a native population, and two new voices and a new plot thread are introduced. The story, based on historical events, feels too rich for Engle's spare, broken-line poetry. Still, the subject matter is an excellent introduction to the age of exploration and its consequences, showing slavery sinking its insidious roots in the Americas and the price paid by those who were there first. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)