Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle

Fredrika Bremer was a Swedish suffragete that traveled the world writing books. She spent three months in Cuba and while she thought the country was beautiful, she felt it's beauty was very marred by slavery. The story's narration alternates between Fredrika, her translator Cecelia who is a slave and Elena the daughter of the Cecelia's owner.

The story is told in free verse and is absolutely beautiful and lyrical sounding. I think that this really brings home stark contrast of a beautiful country and and a horrible practice. The introspection into each characters thoughts give you a wonderful opportunity to see how Elena and Cecelia are changed by Fredrika's presence. Elena's change is particularly drastic, however it is a change for the better. Elena's eventual longing for freedom really made me feel for her. In many ways she is more trapped than Cecelia is, even though she is a free woman.

I also really appreciated the notes that the author included. Frederika Bremer was a real person and she really did have a translator named Cecelia when she was in Cuba. Elena was made up however I could easily someone being so changed by seeing another woman live with such freedom. All of the thoughts and dreams are made up as well however they really feel like they fit and I really enjoyed the book overall.

Part of the reason I read this was because it was one of this years Pura Belpre Honor books and I've been wondering if I should add that to the list of awards I want to make sure I keep up with. Also one of the kids from my Teen Book Reviewers group read it and wrote a really great review of it and was so totally thrilled by the story that I decided I really wanted to give it a shot. It was a great book but I still haven't made a decision about trying to keep up with the award this year, probably because I'm so behind in my reading right now. Does anyone else follow any specific reading lists or awards?

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