This is the 2009 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt, 2008)
Here is a Readers' Guide created by Alyson Lozada.
Engle, Margarita. (2008). The Surrender Tree. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN:085086749
Recommended Age Levels:
Grades 7-12, Ages 12+
The Surrender Tree takes place in Cuba during the times of several different wars. The reader will follow the main characters of Rosa, José, Lieutenant Death and Silvia through the Ten Years' War, the Little War, and the War of Independence. Rosa, a nurse and healer of anyone who is in need, and her husband José and hunted by slavehunters. The novel in verse follows Rosa from childhood to adulthood (1850-1899).
The poems are told from different perspectives of those involved, bringing many different viewpoints to the reader. This novel in verse tells the private, hidden details of those involved in the wars of Cuba during the 1800's. Engle recounts the stories of her own family members, the only fictional characters in the book being Silvia and an ox-car driver. The Surrender Tree includes historical information including a timeline of events in Cuba and discussion from the author.
2009 Newbery Honor Book
2009 Pura Belpré Medal
2009 Claudia Lewis Award
Jane Addams Award
Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor
ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Junior Library Guild Selection
ALA Notable Book
Kansas State Reading Circle
NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Book
Amelia Bloomer Book
Booklist Editor's Choice
Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award Master List
“Hauntingly beautiful, revealing pieces of Cuba's troubled past through the poetry of hidden moments.” - School Library Journal
“Young readers will come away inspired by these portraits of courageous ordinary people” - Kirkus Reviews
“Engle writes her new book in clear, short lines of stirring free verse. Caught by the compelling narrative voices, many readers will want to find out more.”
Pre-Reading Questions and Discussion Topics:
What do you know about Cuba?
As you engage the students to discuss their prior knowledge about Cuba, make a list on your whiteboard/paper/etc. for all the students to see. Students can reference this brainstorming list later.
What ideas come to mind when you think about war? Do you know anything specific about the wars during the 1800's in Cuba?
Facilitate an environment where students can talk about their feelings related to war. Use www.wordle.net to make a Wordle using the words and ideas that students have about war. Put the image up on your screen or print for students to access as they read The Surrender Tree. It is important for students to have some prior knowledge about the wars in Cuba before reading The Surrender Tree. Take time to talk about the different wars in Cuba and the freedoms they were fighting for. Repeat this activity after reading and compare the words used to describe war. Are they the same words? What has changed?
How do you feel about poetry? Has anyone ever read novel in verse?
Discuss the students' thoughts on poetry and discuss both positive and negative preconceived notions about poetry with the class. Make sure to highlight the fact that poetry does not have to rhyme and can be about any topic the writer wants. Tell the students before/during/after reading The Surrender Tree they may want to write a response in their journals in poetry form. Discuss novel in verse with students. Ask them if they feel that a novel in verse can be read as a whole only or can be read in parts.
Read page 81 (José) aloud to the class.
Facilitate a discussion about military forces from the viewpoints of those running and hiding AND those in the military themselves. Ask the students to keep in mind these viewpoints and ideas as they read The Surrender Tree.
Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud:
**Have the students form groups to read aloud or read aloud to the class. Perform a “reader's theater” using the characters and their corresponding poems.**
Selected Poems from Part I: The Names of the Flowers
Page 16 “Rosa”
Page 21 “Lieutenant Death”
Selected Poems from Part II: The Ten Years' War
Page 29 “Rosa”
Page 58 “Rosa"
A man is carried into the hospital, wounded --
he fell from a tree.
I know his face, and I can tell that he
We were children, we were enemies …
Now he is my patient,
but why should I cure him,
wasting precious medicines
on a spy who must have been sent
to kill me?
Each choice leads to another.
I am a nurse.
I must heal the wounded.
How well the Lion knows me! Didn't he say
That curing the enemies
is not my own skill, but a mercy from God?
Each choice leads to another
I am a nurse.
I must heal.”
We have seventeen patients
in our thatched hut
hidden by forest
and protected by guards,
dogs, traps, and tales of ghosts.
Seventeen feverish, bleeding, burning,
broken men, with bayonet wounds,
and women in childbirth,
and newborn babies …
seventeen helpless people,
all depending on us,
seventeen lives, blessings, burdens.
How can we heal them?
We are so weary!
Who will heal us?”
Selected Poems from Part III: The Little War
Page 71 "Rosa"
Page 76 “Lieutenant Death” “Rosa”
Selected Poems from Part IV: The War of Independence
Page 83-84 “Captain-General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, Marquis of Tenerife, Empire of Spain”
Page 86-87 "Silvia"
Page 95 "Rosa"
Page 113 "Rosa"
Selected Poems from Part V: The Surrender Tree
Page 145 "Rosa"
Page 154 "Jose"
Page 155 "Rosa"
Page 158 "Silvia"
Art Connection: Illustrate one of the following poems using your medium of choice. Make sure to include any emotion and/or thoughts that this poem brings you. Choose poems from pages 32, 57, 106 or 117. Invite the students to discuss illustrating other options as they see fit.
Science Connection: Read the poem on page 156 aloud to students. Read The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry aloud. Ask students to list some of the features of the physical environment of Cuba, the physical environment of rainforests, and how the sturdy tree is a symbol in both texts. Create a chart as a class to talk about the similarities and differences.
Social Studies Connection: Compassion and tolerance are two traits that students need to understand and possess. Use the poems on pages 128, 141 and 147 to discuss tolerance and compassion. Use the poems on pages 74 and 101 to talk about gender stereotypes and how to avoid them.
Poet Study: After reading The Surrender Tree, study the poems of José Martí, a Cuban National Hero. The Surrender Tree mentions the writings of José Martí and his contributions to the War on pages 79, 112, 115 and 136.
History Connection: Study the history of Cuba after reading The Surrender Tree.From the physical landscape to the political turmoil throughout the years, The Surrender Tree opens up many connections. This versed novel is also a good starting point to study the culture of Cuba in the 1800s.
Foreign Language Connection: Read The Surrender Tree in English and in Spanish with students that speak Spanish or are studying Spanish. Use the book to learn new vocabulary and study Spanish literature, specifically poetry. Discuss with students if the meaning changes at all between the two translations.
-Margarita Engle's Website: www.margaritaengle.com
-Information about Cuba and History: www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2886.htm
-Information about the Ten Years' War, the Little War, and the War of Independence:
-Video of Versos Sencillos read:
-Versos Sencillos by José Martí
-War and Genocide in Cuba, 1895-1898 by John Lawrence Tone
-Biography of a Runaway Slave by Miguel Barnet & Esteban Montejo, translated by Nick Hill
-The Voice of the Turtle: An Anthology of Cuban Literature edited by Peter Bush (modern Cuban fiction)
-Poetry works by Nicolás Guillén, the “National Poet of Cuba”