Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Firefly Letters

The Firefly Letters

A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

Margarita Engle

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)




The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.

In this quietly powerful new book, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a portrait of early women's rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life.

The Firefly Letters is a 2011 Pura Belpre Honor Book for Narrative and a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens, ALA Notable Children's Books, Jane Addams Award, American Library Association Notable Children's Books, Jane Addams Children's Book Award Winner, ALSC Notable Children's Book, Pura Belpre Author Honor, Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society


Matanzas, Cuba
I remember a wide river
and gray parrots with patches of red feathers
flashing across the African sky
like traveling stars
or Cuban fireflies.
In the silence of night
I still hear my mother wailing,


Praise for The Firefly Letters

“Like the firefly light, Engle's poetry is a gossamer thread of subtle beauty weaving together three memorable characters who together find hope and courage. Another fine volume by a master of the novel in verse.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“This slim, elegant volume opens the door to discussions of slavery, women's rights, and the economic disparity between rich and poor.” —Publishers Weekly

“Through this moving combination of historical viewpoints, Engle creates dramatic tension among the characters, especially in the story of Elena, who makes a surprising sacrifice.” —Booklist

“This engaging title documents 50-year-old Swedish suffragette and novelist Fredrika Bremer's three-month travels around Cuba in 1851. …The easily digestible, poetic narrative makes this a perfect choice for reluctant readers, students of the women's movement, those interested in Cuba, and teens with biography assignments.” —School Library Journal

“The author has a gift for imbuing seemingly effortless text with powerful emotions. . . .This uncommon story will resonate when placed in the hands of the right reader.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“The imagistic, multiple first-person narrative works handily in revealing Bremer, an alert and intelligent woman in rebellion against her background of privilege.” —The Horn Book

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is a Cuban American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She is the author of young adult nonfiction books and novels in verse including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor Book, The Poet Slave of Cuba, Hurricane Dancers, and Tropical Secrets. She lives in northern California.

Margarita Engle

From the Publisher

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

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