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TROPICAL SECRETS by Margarita Engle


Holocaust Refugees in Cuba

by Margarita Engle

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8936-3
Publisher: Henry Holt

Readers familiar with the author’s prior works (The Poet Slave of Cuba, 2006, etc.) will recognize both style and themes in this verse novel set in World War II–era Cuba. The story, like its companion volumes, unfolds through alternating first-person narrative poems. Daniel, a 13-year-old Holocaust refugee, arrives in Cuba without his parents and is taken under wing of the elderly David, who immigrated to Cuba from Russia in the 1920s. He meets 13-year-old Paloma, who works to assist the refugees in defiance of her disagreeable but powerful father, El Gordo. A bureaucrat, he inflates the price of visas for Jews seeking refuge in Cuba, although he is not above making a few dark contributions of his own while the young characters attempt to do the right thing. Engle’s tireless drive to give voice to the silenced in Cuban history provides fresh options for young readers. An author’s note reveals her close relationship with this particular part of Cuban history. Stylistically, however, the manipulation of characters and their fictional conflicts seem, in this latest addition, formulaic. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)