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Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  477 ratings  ·  128 reviews
One hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under the harshest conditions f ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 25th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
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Christie Angleton
The language in this story is so beautiful I could cry.
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uqp, bookgasm
http://www.divabooknerd.com/2014/04/s...
Margarita Engle could only be considered a poet, her immaculate use the simplest of words have a incredible impact on the reader. Told from several points of view, the two main characters of Mateo and Henry represent how each class is treated differently, and more severe than the last, while local girl Anita watches her beloved forest being bulldozed and destroyed.

Silver People was incredible. A fictional story behind those who created the Panama Canal, i
...more
Melissa Barbier
I loved this book. It is written in poetry the entire way through. There are different characters that tell their side of the story through their own poems. There are also sections that are told through the eyes of the animals in the jungle which are also done through poetry. The story itself is about the people who were recruited to help dig the Panama Canal. The darker the skin, the less they were paid. This is a heartbreaking story for many reasons, and I learned a lot about this specific poi ...more
Penny Ramirez
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was another free-verse book that I chose for the Reading Without Walls challenge at the library where I work. I find I'm enjoying the format!

This book was very moving on many levels. I've always been fascinated by the Panama Canal, and visiting it has been on my wish list for a long time. Previous works I've read have focused on the engineering feats (and disasters) that allowed the canal to be constructed. This book focused on the human tragedy of the Caribbean workers who were tricked int
...more
Cheryl
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is another book that I picked up for my nephews as I thought it would be a good one that would help them get familiar with the Panama Canal.

I have never read any book by this author before, so I don't know if all of her books are written this way but I really had a pleasurable time reading this one. The book was not just spilt in long chapters but into sections. There were the voices of the people building the canal and then there were the voices from the forest. The animals who's home was
...more
Linda
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It’s a pleasure to read great verse novels, filled with strong voices and images. Sharing important stories in beautiful words of poetry grabs me every time. I sink into the story, admiring the ability of those who are able to tell stories that sing. And this book sings an important story beautifully.
I’ve looked forward to this book since I first heard about it. I read about the amazing feat of the building of the Panama Canal in a brief book by David McCullough a long time ago. Then last week
...more
Cat
"If our history is ever to be told, we must tell it ourselves."

I read this for the 'Book Set in Central America' category from Diversity Bingo 2017, and I'm so glad I did, even if I couldn't finish the challenge due to two books not arriving until the new year.

The story starts in 1906 when fourteen-year-old Mateo travels from Cuba to Panama to work on the construction of the Panama Canal. There he meets herb girl Anita, fellow worker Henry and Augusto, an older geologist, cartographer and artis
...more
Amanda (abookishinvasion)
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Actual Rating: 4.5
I HAVE NO WORDS.
None.
At least none that will make any sort of sense.
Here are my feelings.

I've read very few books written in verse (WHY!?) and I've realized how much I love it. I love the way characters can be truly brought to life through poetry. The way it can be read with a flow that prose lacks. Being able to read this in verse brought a certain excitement and fun to this book. It took me to a place I've never been and shown me things I've never seen and did it with flawles
...more
Marianne
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Devoured it and loved it. You can read my review and suggestions for using Silver People in the classroom here: http://criticalchildrenslit.blogspot....
Brenda Kahn
Spare poems convey stark and disturbing imagery as the story unfolds from the points of view of three teenagers and an adult, as well as the animals and trees. Important and powerful.
Matthew Harris
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was very interesting and uses servers Literary techniques that really help tell the story of the “Silver People”. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Tammi
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A verse novel chock full of exploitation, racism and more. Highly recommend.
Ogechukwu
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am not a big fan of poems, but I really enjoyed this book. I especially liked the parts told in the pers0ective of the different animals in the rainforest.
Joanna Marple
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Synopsis:

SILVER PEOPLE looks at the creation of the Panama Canal, completed in 1914, and in particular at the fictitious lives of Mateo, a young Cuban laborer, and his friends. The setting is factual. The story is narrated in verse from multiple points of view, including historical figures such as George Goethals, Jackson Smith and Theodore Roosevelt. Engle states that ‘poems in the voices of historical figures are based on their own documented statements’. Mateo flees to Panama away from an abu
...more
Ed
Nov 30, 2013 added it
Engle, M. (2014). Silver people: Voices from the Panama Canal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 260 pp. ISBN: 978-0-544-10941-4. (Hardcover); $17.99.

Poetry by itself is hard enough. Verse novels that explore history and remain poetry are few and far between. Don’t let the fact that these novels read quickly fool you into thinking that they are any less rigorous than a novel dealing with the same history.

In Silver People, we take a look at the creation of the Panama Canal. Silver people are the darker
...more
Sinead (Huntress of Diverse Books)
Silver People is a verse novel about the building of the Panama Canal. I was intrigued in this book, as I thought it was an interesting writing style choice and I’m also up for verse novels.

This book is #ownvoices for Cuban representation.

Check out my book blog for more book reviews and other bookish posts!

__

I was very surprised and excited at the beginning, when I realised that the perspectives were not all human perspectives, but some of them were nature perspectives. For example, the howler m
...more
Sharon Marchingo
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Silver People is a clever verse novel that reminds me why I love reading. This book transports the reader back 100 years to the building of the Panama Canal, a major engineering feat that connected the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The project was driven by American President, Theodore Roosevelt and vastly improved shipping between the continents, however, there was a darker side to this story and this is what beautifully written book reveals. The story is told principally through the voice of tw ...more
Marina Minina
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book Silver people is a novel in verse based on a real historical fact, the creation of Panama Canal, and set in factual situations as the author told at the end of the book. Besides, “poem in the voice of historical figures” such as John Stevens, Theodore Roosevelt, George Goethals, Jackson Smith, Gertrude Beeks, and Harry Frank. I would like to use historical fiction books in my classroom because they are very informative and believable as they are about a real life. Through this book chil ...more
Barbara
Like many schoolchildren, my classmates and I briefly studied the building of the Panama Canal, but only from the perspective of the United States and as a great feat of engineering. Little did I realize the human or environmental cost of this canal. As she does so skillfully in all her books, Margarita Engle tells the canal's story through multiple voices, including those of the trees and howler monkeys who will suffer devastating losses to their species and to their habitat. Readers will also ...more
Ms. Yingling
Apr 01, 2014 rated it liked it
This novel in verse is in alternating viewpoints that include the howler monkeys and trees. The main narrators are Mateo, a Cuban boy who has pretended to be Spanish to get a job working on the Panama Canal so that he could escape his abusive father; Henry, a Jamaican who at first hates Mateo; Anita, a native girl who sells herbs; and Augusto, who has studied in New York and does drawings. We also hear from Theodore Roosevelt (the first US president to leave US soil while in office), and various ...more
Mark Taylor
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Panama Canal was one of the largest construction projects in the world. Originally begun by the French government, and then finished by the United States in 1914, the Canal cost some $375 million dollars, and many human lives. More than 5,000 workers died during the U.S. phase of construction, in addition to 22,000 workers who died during the French attempt. Margarita Engle’s 2014 novel Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal, tells the story of the building of the Canal. Written in vers ...more
Suzanne
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
An amazing piece of historical fiction in verse form, Silver People portrays the construction of the Panama Canal from the viewpoints of workers, geologists, project leaders, and residents of Panama (humans, animals, and even trees). The text is a heartbreaking tale of mistreatment, loss of habitat, and sickness - but also shows friendship, kindness, and first love. I'm amazed at the way each character's voice rings true, from the howler monkeys to the native girl who sells herbs, each is distin ...more
Dawn Moews
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: n1
I had a vague notion of the difficulties encountered by those who actually dug and built the Panama Canal--I didn't understand who those people were or how they were treated. I never gave any thought to the natives who were displaced. And I certainly never thought about the extreme disturbance to the ecosystem. This book brought all that to my attention. I found the book to be both interesting and informative. It left me wanting to know more about this.

My problem with the book is the style in wh
...more
Alisha
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Silver People has won Jane Addams Children's Book Award Nominee for Older Children (2015), Américas Award (2015).

This book was a choice for class that I wanted to read on my own.

The entire novel is written in free verse and tells the story of how the Panama Canal came to be built. The narrative switches mostly between Mateo (a Cuban), Henry (a Jamaican) and Anita (an island girl) as well as other people and animals (the monkeys are used every time). As it turns out, they were called "Silver Peo
...more
BAYA Librarian
In Silver People Margarita follows the stories of three workers and a young native herb girl named Anita, all of whom are witness to the harsh, dangerous, and discriminatory situation in Panama during the construction of the Panama canal. Those in the camp for white workers earn gold and comfortable lodgings; those in the camps for mixed and dark-skinned workers earn silver and varying levels of less luxurious lodgings. The four nonetheless come together to teach and help each other, and they fi ...more
Laura
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
It's not fair for someone who doesn't like poetry (generally) to rate a poetry book, but I read it so I'm rating it. I was excited to see a children's book about the Panama Canal -- until I realized it was poetry. I tried to read it as if it were prose, which it pretty much is except for being broken up in self-important lines. (Prose should be poetic, not dismembered and dubbed poetry.) The story was fine, but I wanted it told as a story.

I thought it odd that the protagonist is Hispanic when t
...more
Hyunhee Bae
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Silver People made me solemn when I found out there were ten thousand workers who contributed their lives making the Canal Zone. The author, who was a Cuban American gained publicity through her book. Most people did not know what was behind the scenes when the Panama Canal was made. This story brought to light the back story about the construction of the Panama Canal. The good thing was there was a historical note, so it helped me to understand what the background was. This book was historical ...more
Jennifer
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Summary:
This is a tale about the construction of the Panama Canal. It focuses on several different characters, both human and non-human, and their stories. Since each character has an individual story, it is difficult to give a particular summary of the story, but the basics are looking at the racism that was clearly happening as the Panama Canal was engineered, built, and completed.

My thoughts:
I found this to be a beautifully written novel. There is a mixture of prose and verse with some differ
...more
Marsha
In blank verse, this book brings to life the many laborers who struggled to make the dream of the Panama Canal a reality and all the existences they inadvertently touched. Each poem is a tiny facet of an untold gem, outlining the many voices of human, plant and animal that existed in what was once a thriving jungle. Despair, misery, racism, bigotry, cruelty, poverty, suffering, curiosity, extinction, growth and hope—yes, hope—are on naked display as the author brings her readers a forgotten slic ...more
Jean
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
As always, Margarita Engle applies her talent with words to showcase a slice of history, a description of a lush land and a story of love and friendship. The building of the Panama Canal is hailed as an engineering feat and its accomplishment is given to the white men who oversaw the destruction of the jungle in order to get the job done. The fact that thousands of men who did the actual digging were treated no better than slaves or indentured servants and that they were segregated based on the ...more
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Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She lives with her husband in northern California.