Former Young People's Poet Laureate Margarita Engle (Dreams from Many Rivers) writes a compelling first-person historical novel in free verse that presents Rubén Darío (1867-1916), "the Father of modernismo," to young readers.
In With a Star in My Hand, Engle sticks closely to the facts of the poet's life, concentrating on his childhood and adolescence in Nicaragua. She writes of his abandonment by his parents and his upbringing by other relatives, including his great-uncle, a wonderful storyteller. As a teenager, Darío gained fame throughout Central America, becoming "el niño poeta" (the Poet Boy) after a newspaper published one of his poems.
Engle delves into Darío's unusual style, which "blended poetry and prose, complex rhymes, assonance... and free verse, as well as classical European and Indigenous Native American images"--a style that introduced a new way of writing poetry to Latin America and the world. Imagining his voice, she creates images that will likely appeal to today's would-be poets, such as Darío describing himself: "So I let my hair grow long/ like my indio ancestors,/ and I tie it back in a ponytail,/ think of myself as a rebel/ .../ I fight with boys,/ flirt with girls,/ and absolutely refuse/ to listen to grown-ups." Leading up to the poet's first book, Azul, published when he was 21, this accessible volume serves as an excellent introduction to Darío and will likely encourage readers to search out his poetry to appreciate his genius. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer