Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle Mod. 3


Google Images


Engle, Margarita. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings:  A Memoir. Atheneum Books for Young Readers: New York, 2016. ISBN 978-1481435239

Plot Summary: 

In this poetic memoir, we see a young Margarita torn between two worlds: her mother’s lush and tropical island of Cuba, and her home in Las Angeles. She travels between the two, her heart in both places. But when the war erupts and tensions grow between her two beloved countries, she is torn. Eventually her two worlds collide.

Critical Analysis: 

This book was phenomenal. Really, as per usual, Margarita Engle delivers a beautifully written, thought provoking, and emotional read. Told in free verse, this memoir addresses her childhood as a half Cuban, half American during the Cold War.

The writing and the imagery are poetic.  I could clearly envision the beautiful island of Cuba, that her heart yearned for. I could feel her struggle, learning that she couldn’t go back and that she was cut off from her family and her identity. I could feel her sense of loss.

The book flows well, and is split into different time periods that were crucial in her life. Before, during, and after. We start in 1947, before Engle is born; the day her parents met. We then move to 1951-1959, then to 1960, 1961-1964, and finally, 1965. Each time period starts with a picture of a flower, and a section heading. Each poem has a “title” a phrase to sum up the experience. It is laid out beautifully.

Through her childhood eyes, we can see how children who are from or whose parents are from countries we are fighting against feel. The fear of losing her mom. The fear of being put in internment camps. The fear of never seeing her Cuban extended family again.

Cuba is described so beautifully. It really makes me want to go there. The culture is heavy in this book, so it would be classifies as culturally specific. But more than the culture and the country itself, this is a book about how it feels to be in a family of immigrants.

Unfortunately, this is a book for all time periods. This is how the Japanese Americans felt. This is how the Irish immigrants felt. I’m sure our Muslim brothers and sisters feel the same way now. I’m sure our Syrian brothers and sisters feel the same. And I’m sure all of our immigrants feel the same. In our current political climate, this book is relevant and necessary, no matter how much we wish it weren’t so.

The ending had me in tears. I won’t spoil it, but it was moving and remarkable.


Review Excerpts:

From School Library Journal:

“A deeply personal memoir-in-verse filled with Engle’s trademark intricately woven lyricism. The author’s memories focus on the first 14 years of her life, beginning with idyllic summers spent in her mother’s homeland of Cuba and ending during the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis and subsequent travel ban. Engle captures the heart of a quiet, young girl torn between two cultures. This historical memoir/love poem to Cuba couldn’t be more timely. With the recent easing of relations with Cuba, teachers can use the text as an accessible entry point into the history behind this very current event. And while the narrative unfolds over 50 years ago, Engle’s experiences will still resonate with adolescents and teens today. Any child who has felt like an outsider will recognize themselves in Margarita’s tale. When the Cuban Missile Crisis ended and everyone’s focus shifted, the author was left confused, empty and unfulfilled by her school’s seemingly senseless focus on what felt like irrelevant historical events. What American child with ties to a country experiencing turmoil couldn’t relate to the lingering after-effects of far off events in our era of two-minute news bytes? VERDICT: A more than worthwhile purchase for any library in need of a universally applicable coming-of-age tale, a fantastic new memoir-in-verse, or a glimpse into Cuba’s past.”

From Kirkus Reviews:

“Poet and novelist Engle has won a Newbery Honor, the Pura Belpré Award, and the Américas Award, among others…. This time she brings readers her own childhood. Employing free verse, she narrates growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s and early ’60s torn by her love of two countries: the United States, where she was born and raised, and Cuba, where her mother was from and where she spent vacations visiting family. Woven into the fabric of her childhood is the anxiety of deteriorating relations between the two countries as the Cuban revolution takes place, affecting both her family and the two countries at large…. Though it is a very personal story, it is also one that touches on issues affecting so many immigrants…. As so many of our children are immigrants or children of immigrants, we need more of these stories, especially when they are as beautifully told as this one.”

From Booklist:

“Reflecting on her childhood in Los Angeles and her Cuban heritage, Engle’s memoir in verse is, indeed, nothing short of enchanting. Descriptions of Cuba as a tropical paradise and the home of her beloved abuelita come alive in the spare free-verse poems. She evocatively addresses weighty issues, such as her mother’s homesickness, being bicultural, the challenge of moving homes and schools, the Cuban Revolution, and negotiating an identity that is being torn apart by politics and social attitudes at complete odds with her feelings and experiences. With characteristic precision, Engle captures a range of emotions and observations salient to a young girl…. In addition to the arresting content that provides many opportunities for learning, the craft of this memoir lends itself to creative exploration in the classroom…. The book’s poignancy and layered beauty make it a worthy addition to any collection and a fitting companion to Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming (2014) and Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again (2011).”


Books by Margarita Engle:

Forest World ISBN 978-1481490573

Drum Dream Girl ISBN 978-0544102293

The Surrender Tree ISBN 978-0312608712

Similar Books:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson ISBN 978-0147515827

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai ISBN 978-0061962790

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Majorie Agosin ISBN 978-1416994022

Journal Entry:

Write about your ancestors and where they’re from. It can be as far back as those who came on the Mayflower, or it can be as recent as your parents or even yourself. Who are you?


Dizzy in Your Eyes by Pat Mora Mod. 3


Google Images


Mora, Pat. Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems About Love. Ember: New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0375855368

Plot Summary: 

A collection of love poems, told from the point of view of varying characters.

Critical Analysis: 

I really enjoy this book. I love poetry, and love any excuse to read it. The thing I like the best about these poems were the clear and obvious differences in the voices of the poems. You know that these are different characters writing. I thought it was interesting.

The flow was good. It was a fast read. There were some parts that I felt didn’t quite mesh, but all is well that ends well.

I also loved the variety of poems. With most poets, they have a preferred form and hardly deviate from it. This book gave us a good variety including haiku, sonnet, cinquain, and free verse. It was a nice touch.

I absolutely loved the poems that were in Spanish. I love Spanish, and every exposure it gets is good in my book. It is such a beautiful language, and Latinx culture is absolutely breath-taking.

All in all, a solid book of poems that really speak to you and make you remember being a teenager and all the different types of love there is.

Review Excerpts: 

From Booklist:

“From family and school to dating and being dumped, the subjects in these 50 poems cover teens’ experiences of love in many voices and situations. Several entries incorporate Spanish words and idioms, as in “Ode to Teachers,” a moving tribute in English with a Spanish translation. A few poems hit a too-sweet tone with forced rhyme, but the best are wry, passionate, casual, and honest (“It’s nice having a sister especially when boys come over, / and some of them like you better”). One of the best is “Silence,” in which a girl speaks about waiting and waiting for her childhood friend to invite her to the prom. Mora writes in free verse, as well as a wide variety of classic poetic forms—including haiku, clerihew, sonnet, cinquain, and blank verse—and for each form, there is an unobtrusive explanatory note on the facing page. The tight structures intensify the strong feelings in the poems, which teens will enjoy reading on their own or hearing aloud in the classroom.”

From School Library Journal:

“A collection of poems written in various forms, each narrated in a different teen voice. According to the author’s note, Mora envisioned the flow of the poems as that of a symphony with four movements—an opening focus on love’s initial rush, followed by a few bumps in the road, healing after loss of love, and finally the joy of finding new love. This cohesion is indeed delivered. Peppered with Spanish, the selections define the emotion in countless ways. The quiet lyricism of some lines will prompt many readers to roll them over and over on their tongues; this is a world in which a simple smile can make a boy feel as if he’s “swallowed the sun” or one’s worst fear might be a kiss “dull like oatmeal.” Where relevant, poetic form is indicated, defined, and discussed on the adjacent page. For all its beauty, this collection is also, in some ways, hard to pin down. The jacket copy and title might lead one to expect a focus on the intensity of teen romantic love. The love here is neither hot and heavy nor clichéd, however, but rather a glimpse into the last remaining innocence of the teen years. At times, the narration even slips a bit astray from an authentically teenage voice. Those expecting a more typical raw, edgy approach to love with poetry akin to the ramblings of a teenager’s journal will be better off elsewhere. Teachers in need of a fresh new avenue for teaching poetic form, lovers of language, and teens in search of a broader definition of love will find it here.”

From Kirkus Reviews:

“The poet’s voice is multifaceted: tender, humorous and joyful but also profound … The author employs an extraordinary diversity of poetic forms.”


Other books by Pat Mora:

Tomas and the Library Lady ISBN 978-0375803499

Book Fiesta ISBN 978-0061288784

The Remembering Day ISBN 978-1558858053

Similar Books:

Here in Harlem by Walter Dean Myers ISBN 9780823418534

Falling Down the Page by Georgia Heard ISBN 9781596432208

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle ISBN 9780805086744

Poetry Exercise:

Choose your favorite form of poetry and write a poem about love. If you don’t have a favorite, choose from the following: haiku, sonnet, limerick, free verse, or rhyming poem.



Seeing Emily by Joyce Lee Wong (Mod. 5)


Google Images


Wong, Joyce Lee. Seeing Emily. Amulet Books: New York, 2005. ISBN 0810957574

Plot Summary:

This is a coming of age novel told in free verse about a girl named Emily Wu, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She is torn between melding her American self and her Chinese heritage.

Critical Analysis:

This novel is very beautiful. It’s a classic coming of age tale about a young girl who desires following her own heart rather than the expectations placed on her by her parents. The writing is very beautiful. It flows very well and the writing is consistent throughout. Imagery is one of Wong’s strengths in this novel. She paints a very beautiful picture of the struggles facing first generations children. She pulls you into the mind of her main character, Emily, and you feel her desires and wants. This is a very beautiful novel that I highly recommend.

Example Poem: 

“At the moment
an image appeared
in my mind,
a bird
molting her feathers,
shaking off her winter garb
and exchanging it
for new plumage,
giddy and bright
as the stirrings
of spring.

A breeze
teases the air,
and the bird stretches her wings,
feeling the tantalizing lift of current
as she poises at the edge
of her nest.

Ready to dive into
the dazzling expanse
of air and light,
the bird envisions herself
soaring higher
and higher until
the very world seems to shrink
beneath the sweep
of her wings.”

This excerpt is found on page 49. I chose this example because it is a perfect representation of the writing in this book, the theme of this book, the tone of this book, and more importantly, the imagery of this book. In this example, you find all of these aspects. I especially like the meaning behind the image of the bird. In this image, you can see and feel Emily’s desperate desire to rid herself of the expectations placed on her by her family. This is a very compelling novel.

Poems to Learn By Heart by Caroline Kennedy (Mod 5)


Google Images


Kennedy, Caroline. Poems to Learn By Heart. Disney: New York, 2013. ISBN 9781423108054.

Plot Summary:

This is a diverse collection of poetry chosen that can speak to us all. They cover a range of human experience and imagination. They are every day occurrences and deep emotion. This book is divided into sections: poems about the self, poems about family, poems about friendship and love, poems about fairies, ogres, and witches, nonsensical poems, poems about school, poems about sports and games, poems about war, poems about nature, and extra credit. These sections all contain wonderfully written poems that will open your eyes to new things and deepen your appreciation for poetry.

Critical Analysis:

I don’t know that I could memorize any one of these poems. While they are wonderful, they are long. Very long. Okay, not all of them are long. And learning a poem by heart doesn’t necessarily mean memorize. Learning something by heart goes deeper than being able to spout it off. It means to analyze it. To understand its meaning. To know the poem and be able to apply it into your life. To learn by heart is to truly and deeply understand: an understanding that reaches your heart.

These are definitely poems to learn by heart. This mix of poetry is lasting and impressing. Each poem is different. They don’t all follow the same patterns, but they all leave you with an impression.

Example Poem: 

 Will There Really be a Morning by Emily Dickinson (Excerpt)

“Will there really be a “Morning”?
Is there such a thing as “Day”?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?”

I chose this poem because Dickinson is easily one of my most favorite poets. I’m so drawn to her tone and her wording. This poem is especially touching. When you’re told about something, and you don’t really believe it yourself, you question it. My favorite line is “Could I see it from the mountains/If I were as tall as they?” This line bring to question whether we, in our limited abilities and limited existence have the same opportunities for the future as those who are taller, more opportune. An optimist would reply yes. But I, like Dickinson, am left with no answer. This is also a wonderful example of rhyming poetry. In this poem, the second and fourth lines in each stanza rhyme (abxb rhyme scheme).

The Bookworm’s Feast A Potluck of Poems by J. Patrick Lewis Poetry Book Review


The Bookworm’s Feast  A Potluck of Poems by J. Patrick Lewis – Google Images


Lewis, J. Patrick. The Bookworm’s Feast A Potluck of Poems. Dial Books for Young Readers: New York, NY, 1999. ISBN 0803716923

Plot Summary: 

A book of poems focused on animals and food.

Critical Analysis:

This was also a hit or miss for me. Looking at the book purely as a child, I’m sure I’d find all the poems quite amusing. However, he lacked in this one. Please Bury Me in the Library was a great collection. This was quite the let down after having read the previous book. I do appreciate how many different types of rhyme and poem types he uses. I think it helps children learn the difference between forms of poetry, say the difference between a slant rhyme and a straight rhyme. The set up of the book was adorable. It is formatted like a restaurant menu. The children will really enjoy this book and there are a few little funnies for the adults as well.

Review Excerpts:

From Publishers Weekly

“With an irreverence suggestive of Ogden Nash and the silliness of Jack Prelutsky, Lewis and O’Brien whip up a whimsical confection of poems and drawings in a format just as enjoyable as the poems themselves.”

From School Library Journal 

“A smorgasbord of poetic forms and moods. Arranged in sections like a formal menu (“Appetizers” to “Desserts”), the book contains poems for nearly any taste. There are selections for fans of wordplay, of limerick form, and of valentinelike verse, each accompanied by O’Brien’s exuberant pen-and-watercolor drawings.”

From Kirkus Review

“Lewis has created an almanac of words at play, using tongue-twisters, puns, alliteration, and many forms and fancies of rhyme scheme in an unabashed celebration of language.”


Other Poetry Books for Kids:

Loving Through Heartsongs by Mattie Stepanek ISBN 0786869461

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silvlerstein ISBN 0061905852

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman ASIN B003ZX7V3S

Other books by J. Patrick Lewis:

Please Bury Me in the Library ISBN 0152163875

Everything is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis by J. Patrick Lewis ISBN 1568462409

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis ISBN 1580892604


The Llama Who Had No Pajama by Mary Ann Hoberman Poetry Book Review


The Llama Who Had No Pajama by Mary Ann Hoberman – Google Images


Homberman, Mary Ann. The Llama Who Had No Pajama. Browndeer Press: Orlando, FL, 1998. ISBN 0152001115

Plot Summary: 

An anthology of 100 poems written my Mary Ann Hoberman. This is a collection for children. These are poems that children will really relate to and enjoy reading or listening to.

Critical Analysis:

This book was a hit or miss for me. I thoroughly enjoyed some poems, while others fell flat for me. Some held a flow and cadence that spoke to me, others felt like they were trying way too hard. She makes good use of literary devices, such as the alliteration in the snail poem. Clever and imaginative, these poems are sure to delight children.

Review Excerpts: 

From School Library Journal

” The selections are mostly humorous, sometimes contemplative, and deal with animals, family, play, and plain silliness. Hoberman’s rhythms are lively and agile, and her imagination and sense of humor are still in tune with young readers. Fraser’s simple but detailed gouache and watercolor illustrations exhibit the same qualities. The layout is masterfully varied and never overwhelms the poems”.

From Publishers Weekly

“This inventively illustrated collection brims with enough wordplay and silliness to please a room full of young wordsmiths.”

From Booklist

“Poems drawn from Hoberman’s previous works…are packaged to delight a new generation of youngsters. Children may be reminded of A.A. Milne’s poetry…but Hoberman’s poetry goes deeper, offering children a new way to look at things.”

Gold Award Winner – 1998 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA)

Best Books of the Year- Child Magazine


Other Poetry Books:

Jazz by Walter Dean Meyers ISBN0823421732

Good Books, Good Times! by Lee Bennett Hopkins ISBN 0064462226

Journey Through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek ISBN 0786869429

Other books by Mary Hoberman:

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You ISBN 0316013161

A House is a House for Me ISBN 0142407739

The Seven Silly Eaters ISBN 0152024409

Enrichment Activity:

Discuss the difference between rhyme and free verse. Have the children tell you which is their favorite.

Teach the children about found poetry. Have them go outside and write a poem based on what they find.


“The Firefly Letters:A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba” by Magarita Engle (Mod 2.)


Google Images


Engle, Margarita. The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba. Henry Holt and Company, LLC: New York, 2010. ISBN 9780805090826.

Plot Summary:

Frederika Bremer is a feminist and human rights activist from Sweden, who has taken to traveling the world to write about the beauty and horrors there are. When she asks to visit Cuba, she expects thatched huts and dirt ground. What she finds, however, is that Cuba is not far from the world she grew up in. Luxurious mansions where girls and women aren’t allowed outside, but rather sit in their rooms and learn the art of embroidery.

As Frederika travels the island, she is accompanied by a young slave, Cecilia, who longs for her home in Africa. Elena, the rich, caged, daughter of her host family, soon joins them and explores a land she knows little about, though she’s lived there her whole life.

This is a beautiful, compelling novel told in free verse that will captivate and astound the reader as they get to know these amazing characters.

Critical Analysis:

Written in her typical style, Margarita Engle, the author of The Surrender Tree, captivates her audience in this moving and beautifully written novel. This book does everything right. The plot is fascinating, the characters are real and have depth, and the language is wonderful. This book is told in free verse, so there’s no rhyme, but the text is obviously poetry. The novel is fluid, and flows well. It’s written at a good pace. It’s a short read, especially since you don’t want to put it down. It moves quickly, but is very enjoyable and you feel as though you’ve had more time with it, if that makes any sense to anyone but me. The only flaw I would say is adding in Cecilia’s husband or not adding enough of Cecilia’s husband, because we only hear from him a couple of times, and it doesn’t really advance the plot much.That being said, his parts are just as beautifully written. So they either needed to add more of him or not add him at all.

All in all, this book was remarkably beautiful and really addresses the plight of Cuban slaves, something you don’t hear much about. I highly recommend this!

Example Poem:

Matanzas, Cuba


“I remember a wide river
and gray parrots with patches of red feathers
flashing across the African sky
like traveling stars
or Cuban fireflies.

In the silence of night
I still hear my mother wailing,
and I see my father’s eyes
refusing to meet mine.

I was eight, plenty old enough
to understand that my father haggling
with a wandering slave trader,
agreeing to exchange me
for a stolen cow.

Spanish sea captains and Arab merchants
are not the only men
who think of girls
as livestock.”

This is the first page, and when I opened up the book and read that, I felt my breath catch and tears fill my eyes. The beauty and fluidity of the language is breath taking. The whole books reads just this throughout. It’s lyrical and mystical and you get this eerie feeling when you read. I chose this part because it’s a wonderful embodiment of the tone of the book and the fluidity and magic of the language. This is a great book to use in a poetry unit, making ties with black history or Latin history.