Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings, Margarita Engle’s memoir in verse, is a lyrical remembrance of her first fourteen years. Born to an American father and a Cuban mother, Margarita grows up shuttling between the lush landscape and familial warmth of her summers in Cuba, and her more ordinary and “regular” life in California and Oregon. But, whether she is in school or at play here in the U.S., Margarita’s heart and her imagination remain forever tied to Cuba, where there is a lush magic in everything, even something as every day as milking a cow:
But her idyllic summers come to an end with the increasing tensions between the two countries, first with the Bay of Pigs invasion and culminating with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the severing of ties between both countries. Margarita is confused, sorrowful, and afraid, and her beautiful verses tell the story of her divided heart: home and identity can belong to two places all at once:
It really is possible to feel
like two people
at the same time,
when your parents
come from two
Enchanted Air will be a selection for our upcoming historical fiction book clubs, and I know that my sixth graders will love learning about Engle’s personal story as set within the context of historical events; I believe that this will be a wonderful opportunity for my students to learn how the events in their history books affect individuals and families in a deeply personal, often tragic way.
As an writing teacher who has a reputation for being “hard” among the middle school population in my school , I was almost afraid to read Patricia Polacco’s An A From Miss Keller. But, who can resist Patricia Polacco, and so I read on…and loved this story. Miss Keller is rather frightening to Tricia, at first, and who but Polacco can convey this in her art alone?:
But, Tricia learns to give her words wings under “Killer Keller”…and those of us who remain devoted to Polacco’s words, learn a little about who and how she was inspired to write as she does.