With a Star in My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero – Margarita Engle, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, 9781534424944, c2020, 2021
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Inspirational (although the book is based on Ruben Dario’s life)
What did you like about the book? What an amazing style of poetry! The book, although a collection of poems, reads like a novel. One poem is connected to another and tells the story of Ruben Dario and his wild adventures as he moved through new places and spaces. The poems begin with Ruben’s early childhood. In the first initial poems you read of a young child seeking emotional attachment and connection after being left under a palm tree. The child also considers what about him makes it so that he feels abandoned or alone. We also see the constant theme of Ruben wondering where his mom is and what expectations she has/leaves behind for his life. The journey through Central and South America was just as much about his growth as it was about connecting deeply with his mother/maternal figure. Eventually Ruben mees his great-uncle EL Bocon in the poem Big Mouth. He realizes his great-uncle is his rescuer and he learns many things from this uncle. However, the most important thing Ruben learns from his great-uncle is the art of being a powerful storyteller. My favorite poem in the novel is titled “A Celebrity”. I love the meaning behind this poem because it highlights Ruben’s struggle of just being used as a show piece in this literary world and really just wanting to serve the raw truth to those who are listening to him. This is often why I feel like the constant struggle for people of color in the literary world. How do they create literary work that allows one group of readers to feel comfortable with the content but still highlight the truths of every situation? All in all the novel was a beautiful display of this style of writing that blends poetry and prose. There is an author’s note at the end that gives some additional background for the book. Additionally, there is a reference guide and a book discussion set of questions to really help educators using this book dive into this book in the most effective way.
Anything you did not like about the book? No, this was my first time reading this author and I love the magical writing style.
To whom would you recommend this book? This book is for the poetry lover looking for something new and refreshing. I had never heard of this author or this poetic writing style. This is perfect for readers age 14 and older who have a strong understanding of different poetic styles and want to explore something super different.
Who should buy this book? High schools
Where would you shelve it? YA Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Rose Metayer, Boston Latin School, Boston MA
Date of review: 07/6/2021