Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Firefly Letters

The Firefly Letters

A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

Margarita Engle

Square Fish

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A powerful novel in verse about an early women’s rights pioneer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life.

When Fredrika Bremer asked the Swedish Consulate to find her a quiet home in the Cuban countryside, she expected a rustic thatched hut, not this luxurious mansion in Matanzas, where Elena, the daughter of the house, can barely step foot outside.

The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika sets off 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 sneaks out of the house 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, which is young adult historical fiction based on a true story, 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 story about a little-known early feminist. It's a Pura Belpre Honor Book for Narrative and a Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year, by Margarita Engle, the Newbery Honor winning author of The Surrender Tree, The Poet Slave of Cuba, Hurricane Dancers, Tropical Secrets, and many other books.

A Pura Belpré Honor Book
An American Library Association Notable Children's Book
A Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year

“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.” —The Bulletin

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

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

EXCERPT

Matanzas, Cuba
CECILIAI
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,
and...

Reviews

Praise for The Firefly Letters

A Pura Belpré Honor Book
An American Library Association Notable Children's Book
A Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year

“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.” —The Bulletin

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, The Firefly Letters, and Tropical Secrets. She lives with her husband in northern California.

Margarita Engle

From the Publisher

Square Fish

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