cover image Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words

Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words

Margarita Engle. Atheneum, $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-4814-6112-2

Engle concludes what she describes as a "loosely linked group of historical verse novels about the struggle against forced labor in nineteenth-century Cuba," focusing on the formative teenage years of Antonio Chuffat, a real-life messenger boy of mixed Chinese, African, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights. Living in war-torn 1870s Cuba alongside enslaved Africans and indentured Chinese workers shapes Antonio's path to the point where he and his friends%E2%80%94twins Wing and Fan, whose family fled anti-Asian riots in Los Angeles%E2%80%94begin hiding Chinese fugitives, %C3%A0 la the Underground Railroad. Antonio also wishes they could free the enslaved Africans, while Wing longs to join the rebels' fight. Engle introduces readers to a little-discussed era of Cuban history through her concise verse and varied points of view, mainly those of Antonio, Wing, and Fan. This historical snapshot focuses less on the war than on its effects on Cuba's citizens as Engle's characters speak eloquently about gender inequality, racial injustice, and becoming a "warrior of words" through diplomatic and written means. Ages 10%E2%80%93up. Agent: Michelle Humphrey, Martha Kaplan Agency. (Aug.)