Inspired by Alice in Wonderland
The talented Margarita Engle has won awards for almost every book she has written.
She is the first Hispanic woman to receive a Newbery Honor award for The Surrender Tree. Her stories include a PEN USA Award winner book called The Lightning Dreamer, and a verse memoir, Enchanted Air, winner of many awards, including an inaugural Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, the inaugural Arnold Adoff Teen Poetry Award, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. Margarita’s books have also received three Pura Belpré Awards and four Américas Awards, as well as a Jane Addams Award, International Reading Association Award, and Claudia Lewis Poetry Award.
Her father is American and her mother Cuban, therefore the Caribbean Island is a recurrent theme in her books. Margarita grew up in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during summers with her extended family in Cuba. Most of her books are historically set in Cuba and have characters that struggle for their freedom and independence.
Before becoming a full-time poet and novelist, she studied agriculture and botany, and worked as an agronomy professor, an irrigation water conservation specialist, and a scientific writer. Her appreciation for nature is notable in everything she writes.
In an interview with Shelley Carpenter (Harpspeed) she said that her childhood was full of books. She read voraciously, and still do. "I was a shy bookworm with glasses, a long braid, a broken tooth, and homemade mother-daughter clothes. I loved plants and animals, especially horses. I wrote poetry."
"Through her historical verse novels, Cuban-American author Margarita Engle offers readers a window into Cuba’s turbulent past. Her historical novels are written in delicate, lyrical verse. Despite the hardships that they often depict, one theme that is prevalent in all of Engle’s books is hope." - yareview.net
"I wrote with a transitional age in mind, the age when a reader begins to seek mature topics, such as freedom and justice, but still enjoys the natural wonder of childhood. In other words, before adult cynicism sets in." she explains in an interview with Ya Review.
"Whenever they walk into a classroom, library, or bookstore, children and teens from all backgrounds should see lots of choices. Some of those choices should be about the countries where they were born, or where their ancestors were born, and some should be about the cultural interface where immigrants become American, or where Americans travel overseas. However, I also think it would be a mistake to only read books about our own ethnicities. All of us benefit from learning about the wider world."
Drum Dream Girl and Summer Birds are about women who accomplished things only men were supposed to attempt. They have a strong sense of themselves, of who they are. They persevere and affect positive and political change for themselves and others. Her message to young girls is to stay true to their beliefs and purpose.
There is separation and loss in many of her stories, yet love and friendship are present even when the characters disagree or are antagonists. She explores the need for mutual understanding and forgiveness.
Drum Dream Girl