Summary: A lyrical biography of a Cuban slave who escaped to become a celebrated poet. Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797 Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world but they also expose its hideous cruelty. Powerful haunting poems and breathtaking illustra
tions create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope.
Summary: A lyrical biography of a Cuban slave who escaped to become a celebrated poet. Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797 Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world but they also expose its hideous cruelty. Powerful haunting poems and breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope. ...show less
Edition/Copyright:06 Cover: Hardback Publisher:Henry Holt and Co. Year Published: 2006 International: No
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Juan My mind is a brush made of feathers painting pictures of words I remember all that I see every syllable each word a twin of itself telling two stories at the same time one of sorrow the other hope I love the words written with my feathery mind in the air and with my sharp fingernails on leaves in the garden When my owner catches a whiff of the fragrance of words engraved in the flesh of succulent geranium leaves or the perfumed petals of aleli flowers then she frowns because she knows that I dream with my feathers my wings Poetry cools me syllables calm me I read the verses of others the free men and know that I'm never alone Poetry sets me aflame I grow furious dangerous a blaze of soul and heart a fiery tongue a lantern at midnight My first owner was sweet to me I was her pet a new kind of poodle my pretty mother chosen to be her personal handmaid My mother Maria del Pilar Manzano a slave Together we belonged along with countless others human beasts of burden to Dona Beatriz de Justiz La Marquesa the proud Marchioness Justiz de Santa Ana noble wife of Don Juan Manzano who shares my name even though he is not my father Don Juan rules El Molino his plantation on this island of sugar and many other sweet illusions These were my mother's duties: dress La Marquesa undress her cool her skin with a palm-leaf fan answer questions never ask collect milk from new mothers in the huts near the fields slave milk the lotion used for softening the skin of noble ladies This my mother accomplished: deliver the milk grind eggshells and rice into powder for making la cascarada a pale shell for hiding the darkness of Spaniards who pretend to be pale in our presence When the noble ladies go out in public milk-soothed eggshell-crusted masked and disguised we no longer look the same dark owner and dark slaves Now my owner is ghostly inside her skeleton of powder but I being only a poodle can watch I am allowed to know these truths about shadow and bright So I listen when the ghost-owner calls me her own baby she plays with me and even decides to set my true mother free Free to marry Toribio de Castro a man also promised his freedom My father is winged like my mother oh I envy them what will happen to me little bird left behind in this haunted nest? She takes me with her wherever she goes I become the companion of my owner noble ghost no not a companion remember? a poodle her pet with my curly dark hair and small child's brown skin suitable for the theater and parties So I bark on command I learn to whine and howl in verse I'm known as the smart one who never forgets I can listen then recite every word Listen she says to her friends and the priest see how little Juanito can sing see how I've trained him watch him perform Back and forth over and over country home city home palaces the plantation only six years old she says but listen to his big funny voice Back and forth over and over I recite strange words in several languages Spanish Latin French while my sweet ghost-Mama-owner and all her friends listen they are forgetful I am rememberful I remember there is also one more mother in my song a bird-mother caged but winged Copyright 2006 Margarita Engle This text is from an
* ''An absolutely lovely book . . . that should be read by young and old black and white Anglo and Latino.'' School Library Journal starred review * ''Readers will hear the storiesand never forget them.'' Booklist starred review * ''A work of literary imagination. Engle's skillful portrait will spark readers' interest in Manzano's own poetry.'' Horn Book starred review * ''The moving poetry and finely crafted story will draw readers in and leave them in tears and in awe.'' The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred review
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