Daniel has escaped Nazi Germany with nothing but a desperate dream that he might one day find his parents again. But that golden land called New York has turned away his ship full of refugees, and Daniel finds himself in Cuba.
As the tropical island begins to work its magic on him, the young refugee befriends a local girl with some painful secrets of her own. Yet even in Cuba, the Nazi darkness is never far away . . .
Newbery Honor-author Engle (The Surrender Tree) again mines Cuban history for her third novel in verse, this time focusing on Jewish refugees who sought asylum from the Nazis in Havana. Covering the period from 1939 to 1942, first-person poems alternate among 13-year-old Paloma, whose father is a corrupt Cuban bureaucrat; David, a Russian immigrant; and Daniel, whom readers meet aboard a ship in Havana harbor. Daniel, also 13, is alone: "My parents are musicians-/ poor people, not rich./ They had only enough money/ for one ticket to flee Germany." The boy's isolation anchors the story emotionally. Daniel is befriended by Paloma, who feels guilt over her father's acceptance of bribes for visas, and mentored by David, who warns Daniel that he must tame "three giants"-the heat, the language and loneliness. Worries about German spies among the refugees suddenly makes the "J" label on Daniel's passport a coveted symbol, as only non-Jewish Germans are arrested. Engle gracefully packs a lot of information into a spare and elegant narrative that will make this historical moment accessible to a wide range of readers. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
March 29, 2009
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engle
JUNE, 1939DANIELLast year, in Berlinon the Night of Crystalmy grandfather was killedwhile I held his hand.nbsp;The shattered glassof a thousand windowsturned into the salty liquidof tears.nbsp;How can hatred havesuch a beautiful name?Crystal should be clearbut on that dark nightthe glass of broken windowsdid not glitter.nbsp;Nothing could be seenthrough the hazeof pain.nbsp;DANIELnbsp;My parents are musicianspoor people, not rich.nbsp;They had only enough moneyfor one ticket to flee Germanywhere Jewish families like oursare disappearingduring nightsof crushed glass.nbsp;My parents chose to save meinstead of saving themselvesso now, here I am, aloneon a German shipstranded in Havana Harborhalfway aroundthe huge world.nbsp;Thousands of other Jewish refugeesstand all around meon the deck of the shipwaiting for refuge.nbsp;DANIELnbsp;First, the ship sailedto New Yorkand then Canadabut we were turned awayat every harbor.nbsp;If Cuba does notallow us to landwill we be sent backto Germany’sshattered nights?nbsp;With blurry eyesand an aching headI force myself to believethat Cuba will help usand that somedayI will find my parentsand we will be a familyonce again.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;PALOMAnbsp;One more shipwaits in the harborone ship among so manyall filled with sad strangerswaiting for permission to landhere in Cuba.nbsp;Our island must seemlike such a peaceful resting placeon the way to safety.nbsp;I stand in a crowdon the docks, wondering whyall these shipshave been turned awayfrom the United Statesand Canada.nbsp;DANIELnbsp;One of the German sailorssees me gazingover the ship’s railingat the sunny islandwith its crowded dockswhere strangers standgazing back at us.nbsp;The sailor calls mean evil name---then he spits in my facebut I am too frightenedto wipe awaythe thick, liquid hatred.nbsp;So I cling to the railingin silencewith spit on my forehead.I am thirteen, a young manbut today I feellike a baby seagullwith a broken beak.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;DANIELnbsp;This tropical heatis a weight in the skycrushing my breathbut I will not removemy winter coat, and my fur hator the itchy wool scarfmy mother knittedor the gloves my father gave meto keep my hands warmso that we could allplay music togethersomeday, in the Golden Landcalled New York.nbsp;I am secretly terrifiedthat if I removemy warm clothessomeone will steal themalong with my fadingstubborn dreamof somehow reaching the citywhere my parents promisedto find mebeside a glowing doorat the base of a statuecalled Libertynbsp;in a citywith seasons of snowjust like home.