Book Review- Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck by Margarita Engle
Engle, Margarita. 2011. Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9780805092400
B. Plot Summary
Quebrado, or “the broken one,” has been traded from ship to ship in the Caribbean Sea since he was taken from his home in present-day Cuba. A child of a Taino Indian mother and a Spanish father, Quebrado translates for the cruel, ruthless Captain Bernardino de Talavera. When a hurricane sinks the ship, Quebrado is rescued from the water by a Narido, a young fisherman. Quebrado learns the power of hope and the gift of friendship again. And it is he who must decide the fate of his former captors.
C. Critical Analysis
Engle’s verse novel, Hurricane Dancers, is a whirlwind of emotions. Engle fictionalizes historical fact in this original story. All of the characters, with the exception of Quebrado, are based on documented figures in history. Their voices weave together to create an epic story of loss, cruelty, love, and the regaining of hope.
Engle uses rhythm, sounds, and excellent imagery to portray the story of Quebrado. “There are days when he treats me like an invisible wisp of night, and days when he crushes me like a cockroach on a table.” The natural emotions felt throughout the story are prominent due to Engle’s impeccable word choice “…even though on a ship there is no place to hide.”
D. Review Excerpts
· 2012 Pura Belpre Honor
· Starred review in School Library Journal, “Unique and inventive”
· Starred review in Booklist, “Linked together, the poems capture elemental identity questions and the infinite sorrow of slavery and dislocation...”
· For upper grades, this would be an excellent read aloud for fluency practice. In small groups, the students could be the voice of a character. And, coming together, the entire story could be shared.
· For advanced ELLs that speak Spanish, this story would give them a tie to their own language that may spark interest in the plot.
· After reading the novel, students could do a research project on one of the documented characters from the story.