Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: Silver People by Margarita Engle

The subtitle for Silver People is Voices From the Panama Canal and hearing from different voices is really what this book is like.  The strongest voices are from the silver people, workers on the Panama Canal who can only earn silver coins (not the gold coins earned by the white man) because of the darker shade of their skin.   We hear from Mateo, a Cuban teen who comes to work on this massive earth moving project that took place in the first years of the 20th century. We also hear from Henry who has come from Jamaica because he has heard that he can earn good money working on the canal as well as from Anita, a girl adopted by an herb woman who teaches her to use the secrets of the forest to heal.  Joining the chorus are howler monkeys, blue morpho butterflies and even trees.  The award winning author Margarita Engle writes in verse, and the story moves along in an easy, flowing way.  We follow some of the characters as their lives intersect within the setting of this monumental project. When I was younger, I got a chance to cross the Panama Canal, and was amazed at this feat of engineering but never considered the impact on those who lived and worked there and the environment.  After reading this book, I feel like my eyes have been opened on this place and time.  If you like historical fiction and appreciate the flow of poetry, you'll love this book.

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