It’s National Poetry Month, so I thought I’d kick off the month with a new poetry anthology that I believe is a Perfect Picture Book:
Title: Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics
Written By: Margarita Engle
Illustrated By: Rafael López
Publisher/date: Henry Holt and Co (BYR)/March 2017
Suitable for Ages: 8-12
Themes/Topics: poetry, American history, non-fiction, biography, Hispanics, diversity
First Friend (Juan de Miralles, 1713-1780)
I believe in the good cause
of American independence from England.
Thousands of soldiers from Spain
and all the regions of Latin America
are fighting side by side with George Washington’s men,
as we struggle to defeat the British.
Brief Synopsis: A collection of biographical poems about Hispanic Americans, “a variety of amazing people who lived in geographic regions now included in the modern United States.” (quoting Author’s Note)
Links to Resources:
- Find out more about Latin America;
- Hispanic is a designation used by the US Census Bureau. Discover what it means to identify as a Latino or Hispanic in the United States for Census purposes;
- The US Census Bureau maintains a website with activities and teacher resources by education level;
- Write a poem about a famous or not-so-famous person or write a poem about yourself.
Why I Like this Book:
Engle includes biographical poems about famous and less well-known Hispanics arranged chronologically from the founding of the United States. Shared dreams and lasting contributions to the United States tie these 18 poems together. Bravo! also includes helpful “Notes About the Lives”, that are short prose biographies of those featured, and “More and More Amazing Latinos”, a poetic celebration of other famous Hispanics.
I learned facts that generally are left out of historic accounts, like that Aida de Acosta flew a powered aircraft months before the Wright Brothers’ historic flight; that in addition to Lafayette and his French comrades, Cuban merchant Juan de Miralles helped the American revolutionary cause by shipping fresh citrus to his friend George Washington and his Yorktown troops; and that baseball great Roberto Clemente was also a humanitarian who organized relief efforts following natural disasters.
López’ full-page, brightly-colored portraits complement and contextualize Engles’ poems by surrounding these subjects with the tools of their trades and providing glimpses into the eras in which they lived.
This anthology is a useful resource for homes and classrooms, as Engle has paired the details of these lives with more universal themes. Following are some favorites:
is the sweetest form
of courage. (Juan de Miralles, 1713-1780; Cuba)
When my friend and I walk arm in arm,
it is a wordless statement of equality,
Martí’s light skin and my dark skin
side by side. (Paulina Pedroso, 1845-1925; Cuba)
Nothing makes me feel more satisfied
than a smile on the face of a child who holds
an open book. (Pura Belpré, 1899-1982; Puerto Rico)
I find poetry in tomato fields,
and stories in the faces
of weary workers. (Tomás Rivera, 1935-1984; Mexico)
A Note about Craft:
Engle uses First Person POV in her poems. I believe this helps readers more easily connect with the subjects and the historical moments. I think this is particularly helpful for the intended audience of 8-12 year olds to encourage empathy with and understanding of the lives of these notable Hispanics.
Is Bravo! a picture book? While it is a marriage of illustrations, or more accurately portraits, and words, the words comprise separate poems, or vignettes. They hang together with a common theme, Hispanics who dreamed and left their marks on US culture and history, as an anthology of poems perfect for National Poetry Month or anytime.
Bravo! has been published simultaneously in English and Spanish.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!