Hurricane Dancers - Review

Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle
Publication date: 15 March 2011 by Henry Holt & Co.
ISBN 10/13: 0805092404 | 9780805092400

Category: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Pirates, Diversity, Historical Fiction

Kimberly's review:

A gorgeously written account of the first Caribbean pirate shipwreck in the 1500s. Our hero, Quebrado, is a slave of Taino Indian and Spanish ancestry. He belongs to no one, a child of two worlds, of two languages. He is a slave on the famous Vernardino de Talavera's pirate ship, the first of its kind in the Caribbean Sea, and a very important hostage is on board with them, Alonso de Ojeda.

The story is based on actual events, though Quebrado himself is fictional. After the shipwreck, Quedbrado is taken in by local natives where he befriends young star crossed lovers Caucubu and Narido and their native families. Here, he begins to belong and live as one of them, his old life coming back, before he was a slave. But fate has a mind of her own as Bernardino de Talavera and Alonso de Ojeda also survived the shipwreck, and find Quedbrado and his new friends.

The five characters' voices are strong, swimming in emotion and lyricism. I felt the rocking of the hurricane, the shipwreck, Quebrado's thoughts. No wonder the book's setting is near water. The prose flows gently, waving up and over catching you and pulling you in.

I read it in one sitting and had to re-read this powerful book. (I already have plans to buy it. This is definitely a book to keep on the shelf, recommend it to friends, and pull off the bookcase for a delightful journey.) The magic is there. The strong themes of hope, forgiveness and survival propel this story forward. It's amazing to read in the author's note she is a descendant of the indigenous Cubans, like her characters in this book, who survived after years of genocide.

Do yourself a favor. Get this book. Relax for an hour or two one afternoon and be swept away in a world of pirates, natives and one boy who had the strength to not lose hope.

Visit the author at Kimberly read this for the Diversify Your Reading Challenge. Find out more at