Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-9057-3 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-9059-7 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 4-6
Eleven-year-old Edver is sent away from Miami for the summer to be with the father in Cuba he has never known. It turns out there’s something else he doesn’t know: he has an older sister, Luza. The two siblings alternate narration in free-verse poetry as they warily circle each other, deal with Edver’s culture shock, and finally work together when a threat to Luza’s beloved forest appears. Engle’s accessible text shimmers with affection for rural life in Cuba, its wildlife, and people, and the book offers shrewd observations about the families spread between Cuba and Miami, separated by only a few miles and a huge cultural gulf. The plot is less successful, however, going from a long, slow setup to an implausible poacher chase; the kids’ mother’s estrangement from Luza is never sufficiently justified, and the failure to tell Edver about his sister remains a dramatic device without plausible underpinning. The exploration of the reclamations of endangered species and the picture of a very different life in Cuba are intriguing, though, so lovers of the outdoors may look past the flaws to the dramatic details.