Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Distinguished books

My last post of December included the titles of a few books that had made my year. At the time I had not yet finished reading Elijah of Buxton, or else I would have mentioned that when I read Christopher Paul Curtis's writing, I arrive to a place where laughter and tears become good friends. Does that ever happen to you? With Elijah of Buxton it happened to me in the train. It was ok; strangers saw me cry and heard me laugh, but with a book in my hands I am fearless.

However, I did mention in my December post the title of Margarita Engle’s The Poet slave of Cuba. What I didn’t say was that from the moment I read it, I knew it would win the Pura Belpre Medal and more. Why? Because it is powerful! Have you read this book? Careful, because you might never forget it:

I fight duels with poets, famous ones who visit
there’s a poet who can wiggle his ears and
one who challenges me to finish his verses
after he leaves the words soaring
like birds in midair

You’ve won, they tell me,
Poeta-Esclavo, you’ve won
and it feels good,
how they turned the words
poet and slave
into a name, first name and the last name so that
when a man is my friend
he only uses the first part
calling me Poet
not Slave

Excerpt from The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. By Margarita Engle. Art by Sean Qualls.

In addition here are other three books I have collected and admired, written or illustrated by Latinos and published in 2007, and worth plenty of attention:

N is for Navidad, by Susan Middleton Elya, Merry Banks, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

Nana's Big Surprise/Nana, ¡Qué Sorpresa! By Amada Irma Pérez, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!: America's Sproutings. By Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael López


Fran said...

I just finished the Poet Slave and I agree - it was wonderful. A verse biography. Amazing. And effective - very. I had the pleasure of meeting both the author and illustrator briefly when the book won the Americas Award last year (I was there to see my friend, Jenn Elvgren also accept the award for Josias Hold the Book). Well done, well deserved!

Yuyi Morales said...

Like you, Fran, I was with Margarita Engle at a same conference, Reading the World, in San Francisco last year. At the reception, when she introduced herself as the author of The Poet Slave of Cuba, some people gasped and whispered. I knew then that I should go and find her book. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet her. We were both busy after that.