Hardcover, 182 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers
“I envy the trees that grow at crossroads. They are never forced to decide which way to go…”
I reviewed another book by Margarita Engle this year, The Poet Slave, which, too, discussed slavery in Cuba from a slave’s perspective. In The Lightning Dreamer slavery is explored once again but this time it is from a relatively privileged perspective, that of a woman or girl as she is when we meet her: Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda or Tula as she otherwise known.
Because she is a woman, her mother disapproves of her learning, reading, and writing and thinks that Tula’s only purpose is to get married to a wealthy man who will ensure that her mother and the rest of her family continue living their comfortable lives. However, Tula cannot reconcile herself to this fate and refuses all arrangements/suitors her mother arranges. She is sent to languish at her grandfather’s estate and there her burgeoning feelings about the unfairness of slavery and slaves peak. She uses her writing to air her views on abolition of slavery and while the book does not go into too much depth or detail about the consequences of her writing enough is said to leave the readers with a glimpse into the life of this remarkable woman.
The Lightning Dreamer is an important book, especially in classrooms as it provides teachers and students with a new way of exploring slavery and culture. It brings cultural issues to the forefront and with the strength of the verse behind it, allows discussion of heavier topics without overwhelming the young reader. The book can also function as a springboard from which to launch a greater research project into slavery and how it has shaped human societies.
The Lightning Dreamer is, ultimately, an uplifting story about a woman’s courage to speak out against what she didn’t believe in and to stand up for what she did believe in. I recommend it.
Let’s step back in time back to last month’s theme of verse novels and take a look at Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust. The setting is a small farm in Oklahoma during the depths of the Great Depression. From January 1934 to December 1935, Billie Jo, our (initially) 13-year-old narrator and her parents struggle to […]
Hardcover, 237 pages Published March 18th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers cross-o-ver [kraws-oh-ver] noun A simple basketball move in which the player dribbles the ball quickly from one hand to the other. Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover won the Newbery Award in June and for good reason as Yash and I will attempt to […]
Crank by Ellen Hopkins was… tough. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really like it at all but I could not put it down. A real life horror story, Crank follows Kristina/Bree as she rapidly descends into drug addiction. This opening poem sets up this first book, in addition to setting the tone and establishing Hopkins’ free verse style, […]
When Lupita discovers Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of their close-knit Mexican American family. In the midst of juggling high school classes, finding her voice as an actress, and dealing with friends who don’t always understand, Lupita desperately wants to support her […]
Hate That Cat is a middle grade verse novel by Sharon Creech, and a sequel to Love That Dog. Jack is one grade older and has the same teacher as last year, Miss Stretchberry, who loves poetry. The story is written as Jack’s workbook exercises for Miss Stretchberry, and runs in many ways as a conversation of which we […]
Hardcover, 320 pages Published May 1st 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books Source: Library “What are you doing, little one?” A priest steadies my ladder. “You don’t have to climb ladders to reach God. He dances within all He creates. Come down.” I run my fingers along the curves of each stone heel. The priest’s laugh […]
I was going to write about Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, the book that introduced me to verse novels (I hadn’t known you could tell a story in poems! The discovery felt deliciously transgressive) and one of many that fed my love of historical fiction – and then I came across Witness, another historical middle grade […]
Sarah Moon is the founder of Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, a blog and podcast. For the last four years, the site has hosted Verse Novel week, a celebration of all things verse novel. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, two dogs and not nearly enough bookshelves to contain all her books. Visit the […]
Serafina has a secret dream. She wants to go to school and become a doctor with her best friend, Julie Marie. But in their rural village outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti, many obstacles stand in Serafina’s way– little money, never-ending chores, and Manman’s worries. More powerful even than all of these are the heavy rains and the […]