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Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck (Pura Belpre Honor Books - Author (Narrative)) Hardcover – March 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Engle, whose award-winning titles include the Newbery Honor Book, The Surrender Tree (2008), offers another accomplished historical novel in verse set in the Caribbean. Young Quebrado’s name means “the broken one,” a child “of two shattered worlds.” The son of a Taíno Indian mother and a Spanish father, he is taken in 1510 from his village on the island that is present-day Cuba and enslaved on a pirate’s ship, where a brutal conquistador, responsible for thousands of deaths throughout the Americas, is held captive for ransom. When a hurricane destroys the boat, Quebrado is pulled from the water by a fisherman, Naridó, whose village welcomes him, but escape from the past proves nearly impossible. Once again, Engle fictionalizes historical fact in a powerful, original story. With the exception of Quebrado, all the characters are based on documented figures (discussed in a lengthy author’s note), whose voices narrate many of the poems. While the shifting perspectives create a somewhat dreamlike, fractured story, Engle distills the emotion in each episode with potent rhythms, sounds, and original, unforgettable imagery. Linked together, the poems capture elemental identity questions and the infinite sorrows of slavery and dislocation, felt even by the pirate’s ship, which “remembers / her true self, / her tree self, / rooted / and growing, / alive, / on shore.” Grades 6-10. --Gillian Engberg


“The unique juxtaposition of poetry and cruelty creates a peculiar literary tension.” ―VOYA

“Once again, Engle fictionalizes historical fact in a powerful, original story.” ―Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Unique and inventive, this is highly readable historical fiction that provides plenty of fodder for discussion.” ―School Library Journal

“Like intersecting rip tides, several first-person narratives converge in this verse novel of the sixteenth century.” ―Horn Book Magazine

“…the subject matter is an excellent introduction to the age of exploration and its consequences, showing slavery sinking its insidious roots in the Americas and the price paid by those who were there first.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Taken individually the stories are slight, but they work together elegantly; the notes and back matter make this a great choice for classroom use.” ―Kirkus Reviews


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1170L (What's this?)
  • Series: Pura Belpre Honor Books - Author (Narrative)
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First printing Inscribed edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805092404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805092400
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kellee M. on December 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Summary: Quebrado finds himself a slave on a pirate ship after being traded around since his mother died and his father ran away. He doesn't even remember his own name, has just come to answer to el quebrado- half islander, half outsider- since his mother was from Cuba while his father was a sailor. He currently works for Bernardino de Talavera, the first pirate of the Caribbean Sea, who has recently captured Alonso de Ojeda, a brutal conquistador. However, Quebrado finally has his first chance of luck- Talavera's ship crashes in the middle of a hurricane and he is able to escape onto an island where he finds his first home in recent memory.

What I Think: If you follow my reviews you probably know that I am sucker for historical fiction and novels in verse, so I am a sucker for this book. Both aspects of the novel were well done- the poetry was beautiful and the historical element was interesting. I love walking away from a novel with more knowledge than when I started and it is even better when I learn about something I never knew about (like pirates of the Caribbean in 1500s). After finishing I went straight to wikipedia to learn more and have put a book listed in the references on hold at my library. I love how historical fiction makes me fascinated about a subject like no history class has ever been able to.

I also enjoyed how it was told from different points of view. It allowed you to get insight into the situation from different points of view. I will say, though, that I walked away wanting more. I wanted more conflict, more resolution, more action... just more. From the cover, I am assuming there will be more books, so maybe they'll contain the more I wanted.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. S. Will on February 7, 2015
Format: Hardcover
In free verse, Engle gives voice to five characters based on early 1500s Caribbean history, including the ruthless conquistador Alfonso de Ojedo and the pirate Bernardino de Talavera. The protagonist, the fictional Quebrado, a boy born of a Taino mother and Spanish father, is enslaved on the pirate ship holding Ojedo captive.

With literary legerdemain, Engle’s light, quick-moving verses pack—into a mere 8,000 or so words—a hefty measure of Caribbean history and culture during the tragic years when the indigenous peoples attempted to survive Spanish conquerors. To catch the text’s many allusions, readers may want to first read the author’s historical endnotes and even do some independent research on the Taino and Ciboney peoples.

"Hurricane Dancers" gleams with lyricism and emotional resonance. Because Quebrado speaks both Taino and Spanish, he’s called upon to bridge the tenuous, danger-laden relationships between the two groups. Here he feels the freight of that task:

My quiet voice feels
like a small canoe
gliding back and forth
between worlds
made of words.

Teachers may want to use "Hurricane Dancers" as the basis of a classroom dramatization, using the text as dialogue among the five characters. Small groups might research the history and perspective of each party: islanders, conqueror, failed Spanish settler-turned-pirate.
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Format: Paperback
Margarita Engle's Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck is a beautifully written novel in verse, similar in many ways to her earlier book The Surrender Tree. Here again, Engle brings to life a lesser known period of Caribbean history through three distinct but intertwined stories: that of Quebrado; Naridó and Caucubú; and Ojeda and Talavera. While many of us are familiar with the history of Christopher Columbus, other stories of the conquest and colonization of the Americas are often overlooked. This book offers part of that missing perspective.

Set in the early 16th century, Hurricane Dancers tells the story of Quebrado, a young boy enslaved on a pirate ship after losing his Taíno mother and Spanish father. In learning about Quebrado's story, we also hear the tales of those around him. Here we learn about Alonso de Ojeda, a contemporary of Columbus, who sailed with Columbus on his second voyage to the Americas. Ojeda became famous for his brutality, both in his settlement of Hispaniola and his later conquest of South America. Yet, in Engle's book we find Ojeda the injured captive of Spanish pirate Bernardino de Talavera. We learn that Talavera is an impoverished conquistador. Once awarded a profitable land grant, Talavera literally worked his indigenous slaves to death, resulting in the loss of all his wealth. In order to avoid debtor's prison, Talavera steals a ship and takes to the seas. And then, on this ship, we are introduced to Quebrado. The sailors name him Quebrado, meaning a broken one, because he is half islander and half outsider. Enslaved and beaten, Quebrado is used by Talavera as a translator because he speaks both Spanish and Taíno.
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Format: Hardcover
I recently read Engle's wonderful picture book treatment of one of the earliest female scientists, Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, and when I saw she'd written a new book, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I was delighted and surprised to find it was a full-length novel in poetry format. Hurricane Dancers was completely different, but just as lovely. A variety of characters each takes turns telling the events of a famous shipwreck in the early days of European exploration of the American continent. Each poem is simply labeled with the name of the speaker, who naturally have very different takes on the turn of events. It's no secret that I am a fan of narrative poetry. As a connoisseur of the genre, I love the way that novels in verse read like any other kind of novel, with the same amount of story arc, but in a condensed, fast-flowing form that cuts directly to the heart of the matter in a spare and beautiful way.

Quebrado, whose Spanish name means "broken" has badly used by his Spanish captors. Bernardino de Talavera is a conquistador transporting his erstwhile comrade-in-arms, now captive, Alonso de Ojeda, both very cruel figures in their own right. After the hurricane, the tables are turned when the Spaniards are thrown on the mercy of Quebrado, the one person who has most reason not to help either of them. The dramatic tension is smoothly handled, and Bernardino and Alonso are petulant, self-justifying and guilt-ridden by turns.
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