Good News!

Congratulations to author, member, and 2016 nonfiction Golden Kite winner Margarita Engle for her new book, Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Wordspublished in August, 2016 by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. Way to go, Margarita!

I asked Margarita about her inspiration for the new book:

I wrote Lion Island to honor the little-known history of indentured laborers in Cuba, who petitioned the emperor of China for their freedom. Many of their petitions were written as poems, so my multiple voice verse novel format seemed ideal. While there are fictional characters too, Antonio Chuffat is a historical figure. His story is interwoven withlion-island that of five thousand Chinese-Americans who fled to Cuba to escape anti-Asian violence in California. As a messenger boy, Chuffat documented both the arrival of los californios, and the freedom struggle by petitioners. His memoir was the primary resource for my novel.

Lion Island was edited by Reka Simonsen at Atheneum, and was proofread for cultural and linguistic accuracy by many writer-friends of Chinese ancestry. The beautiful cover illustration is by Sean Qualls. Lion Island is the

Margarita Engle, photo by Sandra Rios Balderrama

final volume of my cycle of biographical verse novels about freedom seekers in 19th century Cuba. The cycle began with The Poet Slave of Cuba, and continued with The Surrender Tree, The Firefly Letters, and The Lightning Dreamer. I hope Lion Island will help show young readers that the world really can be changed with words, instead of weapons.

Thanks, Margarita. We hope so, too. 🙂

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others. Her other books have received multiple Pura Belpré, Américas, and Jane Addams Awards and Honors, as well as a Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and International Reading Association Award. Her most recent picture book, Drum Dream Girl, received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Margarita’s newest historical verse novel is Lion Island, Cuba’s Warrior of Words. Margarita lives in central California, where she enjoys helping her husband train his wilderness search and rescue dog. Visit her at


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