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THE FIREFLY LETTERS by Margarita Engle Kirkus Star


A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

by Margarita Engle

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9082-6
Publisher: Henry Holt

Three women, their lives circumscribed by their societies’ expectations, come together in Cuba in 1851. Fredrika Bremer, an advocate for women’s rights, escapes her confining upper-class life in Sweden by traveling the world. Cecilia, an enslaved teenager longing for her African home, lives with the knowledge that her father exchanged her for a stolen cow. And 12-year-old Cubana Elena feels trapped in her wealthy existence, she and her mother moving “like shadows / lost in their private world / of silk and lace.” The free-verse novel effectively alternates the voices of the three protagonists (with a fourth voice for Beni, Cecilia’s husband) and demonstrates how each character affects the others, all learning a measure of freedom in their roaming the island, Fredrika always recording her observations in letters and diaries by the light of Cuban fireflies resting on her fingers. And 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. (historical note, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10 & up)