Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle


Engle, Margarita.  Hurricane Dancers. Henry Holt and Company, 2011.  $17.99, 160 pages.

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Reader’s Annotation: A slave, a hostage, and a pirate find a way to survive after being shipwrecked in Cuba by a hurricane.


Quebrado is a slave aboard Berndardino de Talavera’s pirate ship.  He translates and serves as a deckhand on the ship.  Also aboard the ship is Alonso de Ojeda, the Venezuelan governor that Talavera has taken as a hostage.  Off the coast of Cuba, Talavera’s ship is wrecked by a hurricane with only Quebrado, Talavera, and de Ojeda survive.  Quebrado befriends native Ciboney Indian fisherman Narido, who is in love with the chieftain’s daughter Caucubú, who has been promised in an arranged marriage.  He warns the Ciboney of the ill intentions of de Ojeda and Talavera, and the two are exiled from the village.  There, the two must work together to survive the crocodiles and other dangers of the land.  Meanwhile, Caucubú and Narido have run away together, and Quebrado’s part in it has caused him to be exiled as well.  When he comes upon de Ojeda and Talavera, he must decide what to do to eliminate the threat and to earn his freedom once and for all.


This historical story was an engaging read.  Written in verse from the point of view of Quebrado, de Ojeda, and Talavera, as well as Narido and Caucubú, the story moves quickly and captures the readers attention.  The poems make the subject matter easier to access, as it is a simpler read.  The poems also infuse the story with rich imagery and rhythm.  Understanding the historical relevance of all of the characters (except for the fictional Quebrado) would help readers understand better the context of the story.  However, readers can get into the story even without the historical background.  Engle offers an insight into the dregs of piracy as well as a glimpse into the lives and culture of the Ciboney Indian natives.  Being told from multiple points of view, a wealth of emotion is conveyed by the characters.  Intense pain, joy, hope, anger, hatred, disappointment, and determination is felt by the characters and empathized by the reader.  The reader whole-heartedly roots for Quebrado as he discovers his identity and freedom through his adventures abroad the pirate ship and then stranded on the island.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre: historical fiction, adventure

Appeal Factors: pirates, adventure, history, poems

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Rdley Pearon
  • Blackbeard and the Pirates of the Caribbean by Jon Malam

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Pura Belpre honor
  • Children’s Notable Book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Quebrado on surviving the hurricane
  • de Ojeda’s arrogant portrayal of himself
  • Talavera on being a pirate

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Has Talavera changed by the end of the novel?
  • How has Quebrado set himself free?  Literally and figuratively?
  • Why does Quebrado chose the name “Yacuyo” or “Far Light” as his name?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this book because it was about pirates!  I also really love reading books in verse.  The figurative language and imagery of these types of books are so rich and so lovely to read.


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