A lyrical biography of a Cuban slave who escaped to become a celebrated poet, from Newbury Honor author Margarita Engle.
Winner of the 2008 Pura Belpre Medal for Narrative
A 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year
Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama, even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education, young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world, but they also expose its hideous cruelty.
Powerful, haunting poems and breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope.
“An absolutely lovely book . . . that should be read by young and old, black and white, Anglo and Latino.” —School Library Journal, Starred Review
“Readers will hear the stories––and never forget them.” —Booklist, Starred Review
“A work of literary imagination. Engle's skillful portrait will spark readers' interest in Manzano's own poetry.” —The Horn Book, Starred Review
“The moving poetry and finely crafted story will draw readers in and leave them in tears and in awe.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Starred Review
“A rare and stunning account . . . a tour-de-force.” —Juan Felipe Herrera, winner of the Pura Belpré Honor for Laughing out Loud, I Fly: Poems in English and Spanish
“I not only learned about an exceptional life--I felt it. Soul-stirring and direct.” —Nancy Osa, winner of the Pura Belpré Honor for Cuba 15
“Only a poet with Engle's delicate sensitivity could have presented the complexity of Manzano's life and the depth of his soul in such a brief, accessible, and enthralling book.” —Alma Flor Ada, winner of the Pura Belpré Medal for Under the Royal Palms
“Every once in a while a book comes along that is so heart-achingly beautiful, so pure, you want to tear down the doors and make the world take notice. This is one of those rare works.” —Cindy Wathen, co-author of Remembering Cesar: The Legacy of César Chávez
“This beautiful, unique biography reads and sounds like a symphony. Lyrical, informative, and inspiring.” —Teresa Dovalpage, author of A Girl Like Che Guevara
“Through this impassioned story we plunge into the inhuman depths of slavery and surge up with the Poet Slave to triumphant freedom.” —Anilú Bernardo, author of Jumping Off to Freedom