In this “beautifully written, thought provoking” (School Library Journal, starred review) novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who becomes a champion for civil rights.
Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. Yet for most Cubans in the nineteenth century, life is anything but beautiful. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and near-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields.
So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined to prove that violence is not the only way to gain liberty.
Margarita Engle is the Cuban American author of many books including the verse novels Rima’s Rebellion; Your Heart, My Sky; With a Star in My Hand; The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner; and The Lightning Dreamer. Her verse memoirs include Soaring Earth and Enchanted Air, which received the Pura Belpré Award, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among others. Her picture books include Drum Dream Girl, Dancing Hands, and The Flying Girl. Visit her at MargaritaEngle.com.
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 29, 2017)
Length: 192 pages
Grades: 5 and up
Ages: 10 - 99
Lexile ® 1110L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
"[Lion Island] tenderly exposes the rage and hope that can exist within the same heart. A fierce portrait of a young man's discovery of power through words."
– Kirkus Reviews
* “A beautifully written, thought-provoking work from a highly regarded author and poet.”
– School Library Journal, starred review
“Once again, Engle weaves fact and fiction to create a lyrical tale. Like Antonio, readers will discover the power of words and the importance of documenting stories.”
– Horn Book
“This poetic glimpse into Cuba’s troubled past shines a light on an important human-rights activist and will pique readers’ curiosity about Cuba’s complicated history.”
“An engaging historical novel written in verse [that] touches upon many different themes, including privilege, equity, racism, and the power of words, and offers an intriguing view of Cuban history parallel to our own in the United States. It would be an exemplary addition to any library collection. Highly Recommended.”
– School Library Connection
“Engle's characters speak eloquently about gender inequality, racial injustice, and becoming a "warrior of words" through diplomatic and written means.”
– Publishers Weekly
Awards and Honors
CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book
International Latino Book Award 1st Place
Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature Best Multicultural Books List