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The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom Paperback – Mar 16 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (March 16 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312608713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312608712
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.6 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #416,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Engle writes her new book in clear, short lines of stirring free verse. Caught by the compelling narrative voices, many readers will want to find out more.” ―Booklist, Starred Review

“A powerful narrative in free verse . . . haunting.” ―The Horn Book

“Hauntingly beautiful, revealing pieces of Cuba's troubled past through the poetry of hidden moments.” ―School Library Journal

“Young readers will come away inspired by these portraits of courageous ordinary people.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“The poems are short but incredibly evocative.” ―Voice of Youth Advocates

About the Author

Margarita Engle is a Cuban American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She is the author of young adult nonfiction books and novels in verse including The Poet Slave of Cuba, Hurricane Dancers, The Firefly Letters, and Tropical Secrets. The Surrender Tree was a Newbery Honor Book. She lives in northern California.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9ec379cc) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ee9378c) out of 5 stars Struggles and Sacrifices April 19 2008
By Little Willow - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Cuba's three wars for independence raged on as Rosa la Bayamesa, a nurse, tended to the sick and the injured. Using medicine made from plants, she helped the fallen soldiers, the children, even those who fought for the other side.

This verse novel is based on actual events and people, and it follows Rosa's life from 1850 to 1899. Even when they were pursued by her enemies, Rosa and her husband Jose never stopped helping others. Jose and a few other supporting characters, such as a little girl named Silvia, step in from time to time to share a poem, but Rosa is the driving force behind the story. We could all learn something from her selflessness and determination.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ed776b4) out of 5 stars A great read for all ages. Aug. 1 2009
By Lindsey Miller - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's not surprising that the Surrender Tree won so many awards, including a Newbery Honor. The language is beautiful, and the story itself is one that is not often told. Especially for an American audience, this text reveals a new type of Cuba that predates the Communist revolution that sparked an arms race during the Kennedy presidency. This is a Cuba much like the early America or Jamaica--a country of people who want to have their own independence, who want to live freely as one people, no slavery, all equals. It's interesting to see the story from so many perspectives, and I think that Engle adroitly switches through the first person narratives with ease. Often writers will struggle to create variance in the voices and speech patterns of their characters, but each of the four sounds different from each other, not only in style and rhythm, but also in their character--hopes, dreams, loves, actions, driving forces. I read it twice, and I would recommend it to all readers.

-Lindsey Miller, [...]
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9eca8948) out of 5 stars Do NOT Surrender your ears to the audiobook of The Surrender Tree Nov. 2 2009
By Latino Children's Lit Professor and Librarian - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The Surrender Tree is a magnificently, wonderful book that should find its way into the hands of upper-elementary, middle, and high school readers. The print version of Engle's novel-in-prose holds great potential for opening young minds to the injustices of the world.

The audiobook version ruins the book. The main reader for the character of Rosa mispronounces Spanish words and is very monotone. Unless you want to discourage children from listening to audiobooks, steer them far away from this edition towards the print version of the book.
HASH(0x9effc2ac) out of 5 stars Historical telling in poetry of the 30 years mambi' rebel's fight with Spain for Cuba, focus on national hero, Rosa la Bayamesa May 11 2016
By Susie - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This unique book is written in both English and Spanish, with each version combined into a single volume. The story is based on thirty years of almost continual war between the Cuban mambi' rebels and the soldiers of Spain. The story begins with a true heroine, Rosario Castellanos, know as Rosa la Bayamesa as an adult, as a young girl, Rosa is learning the art of healing with roots, herbs, and flowers from the older women. This book is written in poetry form, and starts as Rosa is thinking or writing her thoughts about learning to be a nurse, and dealing with the sadness of trying to doctor the sick, wounded, and dying people who surround her. Another character called Lieutenant Death, is introduced as a young boy who is working with his father to capture and return runaway or dead slaves for bounty. Their stories interweave with the years, as Rosa and her nurse husband Jose, become revered healers to the mambi' rebels and the poor who seek their aid. In 1896, when a decree is issued for Cuban peasants to leave their villages and farms to be place in "reconcenration camps" or be killed, thousands of people are moved into bases controlled with prison like precision and appalling conditions by the Spanish soldiers. As people begin to starve and die of disease, more and more people attempt to flee to the Cuban jungle to either join Rosa and her nurses, or fight with the mambi' rebels. At this time a fictional character named Silvia, is introduced as a young girl in the reconcentration camp who loses her whole family to starvation and illness. She escapes to flee to the mountains and jungle to accomplish her dream of working with Rosa to become a healer. As Rosa, Jose, Silvia, and the other nurses must constantly be moving to keep the Spaniards from capturing Rosa, the price on her head grows higher. She is constantly being stalked by Lieutenant Death. When the fighting gets most desperate, the Americans join with the mambi' rebels, after the American ship, Maine, is blown up by the Spanish soldiers in a Cuban harbor by the Spanish Army. As the Americans gain ground against the Spanish Army, will the Cubans at last be allowed their own country and the right to fly the Cuban flag under which they have fought? Margarita Engle, the author, writes a marvelous piece of historical fiction mixed with historical facts. In addition, she gleams much from the rich oral history of her grandmother and grandfather who survived interment in a reconcentration camp. This is a beautiful story that leaves a tender feeling in my heart for the Cuban people and the hardships they faced by the cruel reign of the Army of Spain.
HASH(0x9e8616f0) out of 5 stars Using the Surrender Tree in the Classroom Aug. 11 2015
By Vamos a Leer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Surrender Tree is a unique novel, both for its content and its style. It tells the story of an often overlooked or overshadowed period in early Cuban history when the country was embroiled in three different wars for independence between 1868-1898. In an unexpected move, the author, Margarita Engle, chooses to tell the story in verse form. Now, I have to admit to some hesitancy and a little bit of dread when I realized the novel was written in free verse. Yet, I was captivated by the story almost immediately, finishing it in an afternoon.

Part of my initial hesitancy stemmed from the difficulty I imagined would present itself for a teacher using a verse novel in the classroom--unfortunately, for many students poetry can be difficult and intimidating. Yet, I soon realized that Engle's use of verse to tell the story was actually quite brilliant. The verse form serves to make the story much more accessible to young adult readers. For one, the pages aren't visually overwhelming. Each page is devoted to one poem told from one person's point of view. This also makes the story easy to follow and the characters easy to track, students always know who is speaking. All of this creates a superficial simplicity that allows students to become easily engaged in a more complex narrative experience. Once engaged, students can take in the story of Rosa, the freed slave who worked to heal the injured in all three of Cuba's wars for independence. They see everything unfold as Engle's writing paints vibrant pictures of what life was like during this historical period. They are introduced to Cuban slavery, pre World War II concentration camps, and early U.S. involvement in Cuba.

Some have critiqued the novel for leaving the reader feeling incomplete, others for the seeming fading in and out of characters, with no real closure or explanation. While, I didn't particularly feel that way, I have to wonder if any sense of incompleteness was intentional. It's a story of a country torn apart by three different wars for independence over a period of 30 years. Lives are lost and people disappear, uprooted by the fighting and war, often times closure is never found. And, in fact, I don't think Cuba found closure at the end of the last war. Despite 30 years of war, the Cuban flag could still not be flown. In the words of José--"We can only watch from far away/ as the Spanish flag is lowered/ and the American flag glides upward./ Our Cuban flag/ is still forbidden" (p. 156).

While it may not be a book most students would pick up on their own, I think many students would really like it if it was used in the classroom. For teachers, it's an opportunity to introduce students to novels written in verse. It allows students a more sustained period of time to get comfortable reading in verse that poems often don't. The novel could quite easily be converted to a Reader's Theatre activity, having individual students `act out' the parts by reading a specific character's poems. The content is engaging--at times the descriptions offered are gruesome--all the more interesting to students because it is a story based upon real events and real people.

Check out our free Educator's Guide for the book at our wordpress blog Vamos a Leer.