Review of Martí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad

Martí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad
by Emma Otheguy; illus. by Beatriz Vidal; with excerpts from Versos sencillos by José Martí; trans. into Spanish by Adriana Domínguez
Primary    Children’s/Lee & Low    32 pp.    g
7/17    978-0-89239-375-6    $17.95

“I come from every place, / And I’m on the road to everywhere: / I am art amid the arts, / And in the mountain chain, a link.” The author of those words, José Martí, is a hero of Cuba and an important figure in Latin American literature. He was a freedom fighter born during the Spanish colonization of Cuba in the nineteenth century. As a boy, he witnessed firsthand the cruelty of slavery and colonialism; he would dedicate his life to abolishing slavery in Cuba and gaining Cuba’s independence. As an outspoken and passionate youth, his protests landed him in jail and later led to his exile from Cuba. As he traveled the world building support for his country, Nueva York (New York) became his new home until the pull of his beloved homeland became too great. Ever a poet, Martí found solace in the beauty of nature, especially in the Catskill Mountains: as Otheguy writes, “In the mountains, there was freedom— / the grass grew wild / and seemed to whisper / that Cuba still needed him”). Otheguy’s verse is seamlessly combined with excerpts from Martí’s own Versos sencillos. Vidal’s gouache folk art–style illustrations are soft yet evocative; they bring to life the rich countryside of Cuba with its palmas reales as well as the lush autumn foliage of the Catskills. This is a gorgeous bilingual tribute to the life of Cuba’s hero-poet. Back matter includes an afterword, an author’s note, a selected bibliography, and source notes, in English and Spanish.

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Alia Jones
Alia Jones

Alia Jones is a Library Assistant at the University of Cincinnati Science and Engineering Libraries. She was a member of the 2020 Caldecott Award Committee and is currently on the 2022 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury.

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