cover image With a Star in My Hand

With a Star in My Hand

Margarita Engle. Atheneum, $17.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-5344-2493-7

The latest biography in verse from Newbery Honoree Engle (Dreams from Many Rivers) adapts the life of beloved Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío (1867–1916). First-person poems describe childhood abandonment by his mother, his years as a child-prodigy poet, and his adulthood as a hard-drinking globetrotter. Engle documents Darío’s shift from traditional rhymed forms to “just letting verses flow, finding their way/ into musical rhythms that dance on natural air,” at times imitating these structures. In her own free verse, Engle distills a fascinating life and creates a portrait of a country where poetry, valued by many, could be a young person’s ticket out of hardship. Darío navigates heartache and ponders national and ethnic identity, but Engle leaves out necessary context that would allow the subjects to come fully alive. Meaningful lines occasionally sing but sometimes feel repetitious. Nevertheless, in introducing readers to Darío, Engle creates a jumping-off point for poetic exploration. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)