Review of Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger

Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger
by Margarita Engle
Middle School, High School    Atheneum    224 pp.    g
3/21    978-1-5344-6496-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-6498-8    $10.99

Engle (Enchanted Air, rev. 7/15; Soaring Earth, rev. 3/19) once again revisits her Cuban heritage and demonstrates an abiding appreciation of nature in this historical verse novel set during the “Período especial,” the euphemistically named “special period in times of peace.” In 1991, Cuba is hosting the Pan American Games and putting on a prosperous face for the rest of the world, but the Cuban people are starving, due to U.S. trade embargoes and the abrupt halt in aid and food imports from Communist allies after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Two teenagers who have resisted joining the “voluntary” summer labor programs are brought together by a scruffy stray dog as they scavenge for seaweed, shorebird eggs, and any fruit, fish, or fowl they can find, hunt, or steal to ease their relentless hunger. At its heart, this is a tender love story, lyrically presented in alternating poetic voices (including broader observations in third-person poems from the dog’s perspective), but it is also a coming-of-age narrative for the impressionable protagonists, exploring duty to country and family, the consequences of living with hunger and fear, and the costs of individual freedom and ambition. A deeply felt and engrossing look at a time when the grandparents lived “on a menu of memories” while the new generation survived “on nothing / but wishes.”

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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