OVERRIDE

The Poet Slave of Cuba

A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano

Margarita Engle; Illustrated by Sean Qualls

Square Fish

A lyrical biography of a Cuban slave who escaped to become a celebrated poet.

Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama, even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education, young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world, but they also expose its hideous cruelty.  Powerful, haunting poems and breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope.

The Poet Slave of Cuba is the winner of the 2008 Pura Belpre Medal for Narrative and a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year. Latino Interest.

BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

Juan

My mind is a brush made of feathers
painting pictures of words
I remember
all that I see
every syllable
each word a twin of itself
telling two stories
at the same time
one of sorrow
the other hope

I love the words
written with my feathery mind
in the air
and with my sharp fingernails
on leaves in the garden

When my owner catches
a whiff
of the fragrance
of words
engraved in the flesh
of succulent geranium leaves
or the perfumed petals of alelí flowers
then she frowns because she knows
that I dream
with
READ THE FULL EXCERPT
BACK

REVIEWS

Praise for The Poet Slave of Cuba

“An absolutely lovely book . . . that should be read by young and old, black and white, Anglo and Latino.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review

“Readers will hear the stories––and never forget them.”—Booklist, Starred Review

“A work of literary imagination. Engle’s skillful portrait will spark readers’ interest in Manzano’s own poetry.”—The Horn Book, Starred Review

“The moving poetry and finely crafted story will draw readers in and leave them in tears and in awe.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Starred Review

“A rare and stunning account . . . a tour-de-force.”—Juan Felipe Herrera, winner of the Pura Belpré Honor for Laughing out Loud, I Fly: Poems in English and Spanish

“I not only learned about an exceptional life—I felt it. Soul-stirring and direct.”—Nancy Osa, winner of the Pura Belpré Honor for Cuba 15

“Only a poet with Engle’s delicate sensitivity could have presented the complexity of Manzano’s life and the depth of his soul in such a brief, accessible, and enthralling book.”—Alma Flor Ada, winner of the Pura Belpré Medal for Under the Royal Palms

“Every once in a while a book comes along that is so heart-achingly beautiful, so pure, you want to tear down the doors and make the world take notice. This is one of those rare works.”—Cindy Wathen, co-author of Remembering Cesar: The Legacy of César Chávez

“This beautiful, unique biography reads and sounds like a symphony. Lyrical, informative, and inspiring.”—Teresa Dovalpage, author of A Girl Like Che Guevara

“Through this impassioned story we plunge into the inhuman depths of slavery and surge up with the Poet Slave to triumphant freedom.”—Anilú Bernardo, author of Jumping Off to Freedom

Winner of the Pura Belpré Medal
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults and Notable Children’s Books
Winner of the Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature
An IRA Children’s Book Award Winner and an IRA Teachers’ Choice
An NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts
A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
A New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age Selection
A CCBC Choice
Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List
A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
A Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Booklist Top Ten Black History Book

Reviews from Goodreads

BACK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Margarita Engle; Illustrated by Sean Qualls

  • 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, Hurricane Dancers, The Firefly Letters, and Tropical Secrets. She lives in northern California. Sean Qualls is the illustrator of The Baby on the Way and Powerful Words. He lives with his wife and their son in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Margarita Engle
  • Sean Qualls
BACK

READING GUIDE

OTHER GUIDES

Teacher's Guide
BACK

BUY THE BOOK

Available Formats and Book Details

The Poet Slave of Cuba

A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano

Margarita Engle; Illustrated by Sean Qualls

American Library Association Notable Children's Books, American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, Pura Belpre Author Award, Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List, IRA Children's and Young Adults Book Award, IRA Teachers' Choices, NCTE Notable Child. Bks in Lang. A, Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Wi, CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI), NYPL Books for the Teen Age, Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year
BACK

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Square Fish

BACK