Weaving in work from poet and Cuban freedom fighter José Martí, Otheguy presents a sensitive portrayal of the revolutionary.
Told in stanzas paired alongside Domínguez’s Spanish translation, Martí’s life story faces detailed, evocative full-page paintings, some painful (Martí witnessed the horrors of slavery), others celebratory. While the pale-skinned Cuban’s life contained many contradictions and political subtleties, the book focuses on Martí’s love of country and ties it in not only to his writing work, but to a more literal love of a homeland: his affinity for nature that continued even when he lived in the United States in exile. “In the Catskills, José splashed in the waterfalls, / hiked through the helecho, / the ferns that lined the paths, / and admired the thick bark of the oak trees,” Otheguy writes. If the text sometimes feels workmanlike, it’s only because the included bits of Martí’s poetry are so strong and searing. “I’ve seen the wounded eagle / Fly to the clear blue sky, / And I’ve seen the snake lie dying / From its own poison, alone in its lair.” While it doesn’t paint the most detailed picture of who Martí was as a person, it conveys enough of his fervent belief in Cuba’s independence and where those beliefs took him in life to make up for that.
In bringing an important life back into the conversation during divided political times, this book spotlights a steadfast hero and brilliant writer still worth admiring today. (Picture book/biography. 7-12)