Quebrado has been traded from pirate ship to ship in the Caribbean Sea for as long as he can remember. The sailors he toils under call him el quebrado—half islander, half outsider, a broken one. Now the pirate captain Bernardino de Talavera uses Quebrado as a translator to help navigate the worlds and words between his mother’s Taíno Indian language and his father’s Spanish.
But when a hurricane sinks the ship and most of its crew, it is Quebrado who escapes to safety. He learns how to live on land again, among people who treat him well. And it is he who must decide the fate of his former captors.
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 Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor Book, The Poet Slave of Cuba, The Firefly Letters, and Tropical Secrets. She lives in northern California.
Read an Excerpt
The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck
By Margarita Engle
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2011 Margarita Engle
All rights reserved.
to the song
of creaking planks,
the roll and sway
of clouds in sky,
a mourning moan
as this old ship
her true self,
her tree self,
One glance is enough to show me
the pirate's mood.
There are days when he treats me
like an invisible wisp of night,
and days when he crushes me
like a cockroach on his table.
I try to slip away
each time I see
his coiled fist,
on a ship
there is no place
The sailors call me el quebrado,
"the broken one," a child of two
shattered worlds, half islander
and half outsider.
My mother was a natural, a "native"
of the island called cu ba, "Big Friend,"
home of my first few wild
My father was a man of the sea,
a Spanish army deserter.
When my mother's people
found him on horseback,
starving in the forest,
they fed him, and taught him
how to live like a natural.
To become a peaceful Taíno,
he traded his soldier-name
for Gua Iro, "Land Man."
He and my mother
were happy together,
until a plague took the village,
and none were left
but my wandering father,
who roamed far away,
leaving me alone
with his copper-hued horse
in an unnatural village
of bat-winged spirits
and guava-eating ghosts.
Sailors call me a boy
of broken dreams,
but I think of myself
as a place — a strange place
dreamed by the sea,
half floating island
I survived alone in the ghostly village,
with only my father's abandoned horse
to console me, until a moonlit night
when I was seized by rough seafarers,
wild men who beat me
and taught me how to sail,
and how to lose hope.
I was traded from ship to ship as a slave,
until I ended up in the service
of Bernardino de Talavera,
the pirate captain of this stolen vessel.
The pirate finds me useful
because I know two tongues,
my mother's flutelike Taíno,
and my father's drumlike Spanish.
Together, my two languages
sound like music.
How can a father abandon a son
in such a dangerous world?
Why did he leave me alone
in that village of ghosts
with only his red horse
What kind of horseman
abandons his steed?
A sorrowful man,
that is the answer.
I have spent all my years
accepting sad truths.
Bernardino de Talavera
I once owned a vast land grant
with hundreds of naturales,
Indian slaves who perished
from toil, hunger, and plagues.
Crops withered, mines failed.
All my dreams of wealth vanished.
Soldiers soon gave chase,
trying to send me to debtors' prison,
so I captured this ship and seized
a valuable hostage, Alonso de Ojeda,
Governor of Venezuela,
an immense, jungled province
on the South American mainland,
where he is known
as the most ruthless
conqueror of tribes.
When I heard that Ojeda
had been wounded by a warrior's
I offered help, assuring the Governor
that my ship would gladly carry him
to any port with Spanish doctors.
I offered the illusion of mercy,
and Ojeda was desperate enough
to believe me.
The pirate demands a ransom,
but the hostage insists
he has nothing to give,
so while they argue,
I lean over the creaking ship's
watching with wonder
as blue dolphins
leap and soar
like winged spirits.
My mother believed dolphins
can change their shape, turning
into men who come ashore
to sing and dance during storms.
If legless creatures
can be transformed,
I will change too.
to Bernardino de Talavera
I catch the broken boy,
and it takes only a few quick blows
to convince Ojeda
of my strength.
When the prisoner sees my power
over a slave boy, he understands
that I would show even less mercy
to a grown man.
Knights who have lost
their guns and swords
are remarkably easy
Alonso de Ojeda
All my life, I have been triumphant.
On the isle of Hispaniola, I tricked
a chieftain by offering him a ride on my horse,
then trapping him in handcuffs.
I sent him away in the hold of a ship,
to be sold as a curiosity in Spain,
but a hurricane sank the vessel
while the chief was still shackled.
Expecting rebellion, I slaughtered
his queen and all her people,
to keep them from seeking revenge.
There were days when my sword
killed ten thousand.
Now, all those dead spirits haunt me,
and I am the one on a ship
The life of a ship's slave
is hard labor and fists,
or deep water and sharks.
When I sleep, I belong to the land.
In dreams, I work in a field,
planting roots in rich soil.
In dreams, I feel like a spirit of the air,
riding my father's leaping horse.
In dreams, I feel free,
until the sun rises and my eyes open,
and once again I must struggle
beneath the weight
of flapping sails
and heavy ropes.
My mother loved the green parrots
and red macaws that made the sky
above our village look so cheerful.
She always had at least one raucous bird
perched on her shoulder.
As if by magic, the clever birds
learned to speak two languages.
My first words of Taíno and Spanish
were mastered by listening to songs
recited by feathered creatures
of the air.
Now, each time I think of home,
I remember that the world
is big enough to offer more
The sea is wild today.
The sails look like wings.
Sailors chant tales while they work —
sweet songs about the Island of Mermaids,
and scary ones about the Isle of Giants,
with green jungles where huge women
turn into monsters, clasping sailors
in their talons.
The sea is wild tonight.
The roaring wind
Alonso de Ojeda
Shackled to a rotting wall
in the ship's stinking hold,
I feel as helpless as a turtle
flipped on its back,
awaiting the cook's
I clench my fists
to fight my way
out of the handcuffs,
gather around me,
and waiting. ...
Bernardino de Talavera
The hostage begs for mercy,
but I have enough trouble
just trying to figure out
how to steer
the stubborn ship
in this devil wind,
and how to reach land,
and where to await
In a storm, the only decision
that really matters
The sky is alive with cloud dragons
and wind spirits.
When a sailor is almost swept overboard,
I wish that I had a gold ring in my ear,
like the one the pirate wears for luck.
His red shirt is meant to ward away
evil winds, and he ties a green cloth
around his head for protection.
The rest of us are dressed in rags,
except for the shackled hostage,
who wears armor and an amulet
with the painted face of a wistful saint.
I wonder if the saint looks so sad
because she knows how many people
Ojeda has killed.
I carry a brass bell
with each step,
hoping to soothe
the angry wind
by ringing out
a festive melody.
If only my own
of this howling storm
and the pirate's fury
and Ojeda's screams
could be calmed
by a remedy
Alonso de Ojeda
I am a short man, but strong and agile.
I was daring enough to lead
the bold expedition that named
this entire New World.
Amerigo Vespucci was just a merchant
on one of my ships, and even though
the foolish mapmaker chose his name
instead of mine, the true honor
of claiming this vast wilderness
still rightfully belongs to me.
Someday, all maps and charts
will proclaim the Alonsos,
not the Americas!
The ship groans,
and I feel the storm
all around me
like an enormous
in a nightmare
and chase. ...
On a ship
there is no place
to run away.
Bernardino de Talavera
I am not a man of prayer,
but every hurricane earns its name
by falling on the feast day
of a saint who has the power
to calm wild winds
and spare fragile ships,
so even though I have no calendar,
and I am just guessing at today's date,
I roar the name of Santiago,
patron of my homeland,
Spain's armored warrior-saint,
galloping on his ghostly
of clouds. ...
Excerpted from Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle. Copyright © 2011 Margarita Engle. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters,
Part One: Wild Sea,
Part Two: Brave Earth,
Part Three: Hidden,
Part Four: The Sphere Court,
Part Five: The Sky Horse,
Part Six: Far Light,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Significant for its unique subject matter and perspective. As we've come to expect from Margarita Engle, this book has a great author's note and is based on some fantastic research.
I received Hurricane Dancers as an early review copy from Goodreads as part of the giveaway program. It was a quick enjoyable read, told from the point of view of 5 individual characters in verse form. At first I wasn't quite sure how it would read but each poem or verse has been created in a way that brings the whole story to life. The characters are each engaging as well as have their own definite voices. I was expecting there to be more detail into the actual shipwreck itself and the circumstances, which is based on the book description. I also did not realize that the book was to be told in verse, but I have to say overall it was enjoyable.
A young boy named Quebrado is being traded from ship to ship in the Caribbean. Half-Spanish, half-Indian, he is delicately straddling two worlds as he tries to translate between languages to appease the ship¿s captain. In a series of poems, told from the point of view of Quebrado and other characters, the sorrow and brutality of the Caribbean slave trade comes to life. The poems themselves are short, but the impact of their words is not to be understated. High school students should appreciate this eloquent, novel way of telling this tragic piece of history. Recommended. For ages 15-18.
Told in verse through multiple narrators, Engle's latest book takes readers to the world of pirates in the 16th century in the Carribean. The pirate part is the kid appeal; the appeal for me was the beauty of the language, which is Engle's hallmark. The sailors call him el quebrado," the broken one, a child of two shalltered worlds, half islander and half outsider," He's traded ship to ship and ends up under the tyrant Bernadino de Talavera. When a hurricane hits, and Quebrado survives, he adjusts to his new life and comes to be in a position to decide the fate of his former captors. A great book for teaching point of view, and for reader's theater --having kids read the poems by various narrators. In every poem, the first person narration gets readers inside such very different personalities. exp
I think this book really tells a fascinating story about a part of the world that many children are unfamiliar with, despite it's close proximity to the U.S. This story is told through the viewpoints of several of the characters, which provides a deeper look at the events described. Even though the main character is fictional the other characters are not. The story is a gripping one about slavery and what being free really means. I would recommend this book for middle school students. I think it would be easier for them to comprehend all the interesting information.
I think this book would be for an older audience because the younger children might not be able to comprehend everything that happens. When the sink ships in the story and Quebrado is left to fend for himself he learns to live on land again and now he is deciding the fate of his captors. The story is told in several different view points which I like because you get an opinion from every different character.