Open main menu

Margarita Engle (born in Los Angeles, California on September 2, 1951)[1] is a Cuban American poet and author of many award-winning books for children, young adults and adults.[2] Most of Engle's stories are written in verse and are a reflection of her Cuban heritage and her deep appreciation and knowledge of nature.[3] She became the first Latino awarded a Newbery Honor in 2009 for The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom.[4] She was selected by the Poetry Foundation to serve from 2017–2019 as the sixth Young People's Poet Laureate.[5] On October 9, 2018, Margarita Engle was announced the winner of the 2019 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature. She was nominated by 2019 NSK Prize jury member Lilliam Rivera.[6]

Margarita Engle
Engle in 2014
Engle in 2014
Born (1951-09-02) September 2, 1951 (age 68)
Pasadena, California, United States

Early lifeEdit

Engle's father was born in Los Angeles, California and her mother in Trinidad, Cuba. Although Engle was born and raised in California, growing up, she spent many summers with her extended family in Cuba.[3] As a child, she was introduced to poetry in Spanish, particularly the works of José Martí.[7]


Engle earned a B.S. from California State Polytechnic University in 1974, an M.S. from Iowa State University in 1977, and nearly completed a doctoral degree in biology from the University of California, Riverside in 1983.[1] Before starting her writing career, Engle was a tenured professor of agronomy at California Polytechnic University. While working on her doctoral degree, she took a seminar in creative writing with Tomás Rivera, and credits this experience with igniting her passion to write.[7] She lives in Central California, where she enjoys helping her husband with his volunteer work for wilderness search and rescue dog training programs.[7]


Entire body of work (2019)

THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA, A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano (Henry Holt & Co., 2006)

  • 2008 Pura Belpré Medal for author[8]
  • International Reading Association Teachers' Choice
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts
  • Bank Street

THE SURRENDER TREE, Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom (Henry Holt & Co., 2008)

TROPICAL SECRETS, Holocaust Refugees in Cuba (Henry Holt & Co., 2009)

  • Sydney Taylor Award
  • Paterson Prize
  • Américas Award Commendation
  • New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults Nominee
  • California Teachers Association Recommended Book

THE FIREFLY LETTERS, A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba (Henry Holt & Co., 2010)

  • 2011 Pura Belpré Honor for author[8]
  • Jane Addams Award Finalist
  • California Book Award Finalist
  • International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society
  • NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Book
  • Amelia Bloomer Book
  • TAYSHAS Choice
  • Junior Library Guild Selection

SUMMER BIRDS, The Butterflies of Maria Merian (Henry Holt & Co., 2010, picture book)

  • Kirkus Best Books for Children
  • NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Book
  • Amelia Bloomer Book

HURRICANE DANCERS, The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck (Henry Holt & Co., 2011)

  • 2012 Pura Belpré Honor for author[8]
  • ALSC 2012 Notable Children's Book for older readers
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults nominee
  • Poetry for Children Blog's Top 20 Most Distinctive Books of Poetry 2011
  • 2012 White Ravens List

DRUM DREAM GIRL, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt., 2015)


Selected worksEdit

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit