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The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,321 ratings  ·  420 reviews
It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not free. People have been rounded up in reconcentration camps with too little food and too much illness. Rosa is a nurse, but she dares not go to the camps. So she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her.

Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by Square Fish (first published April 1st 2008)
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An evocative, emotional, but also often bravely optimistic verse-novel introduction to Cuban history and especially Cuba's rather violent and devastating struggle for independence, for freedom and sovereignty from Spain, Margarita Engle's The Surrender Tree (which won a Newbery Honour designation in 2009) not only features a lyrically beautiful text, the fact that the author shows the musings, the thoughts and actions of different players in the struggle for independence juxtaposed gives (or ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE SURRENDER TREE is a book that's completely outside of my normal wheel house. It's historical fiction, written in verse form, about wars I knew absolutely nothing about. But it was so powerful.

Each page (for the most part) follows one of the following characters:
- Rosa: a freed slave healer
- Jose: Rosa's husband, healer, and rebel
- Lieutenant Death: a slavehunter
- Silvia: an orphan and healer-in-training

And it follows the characters through the Ten Years' War, Little War, and War of
Julie Christine
Cuba's three wars for independence are conveyed in expressive free verse. A variety of voices, from an angel of mercy nurse and her husband to a merciless solider known at Lieutenant Death; slaves, resistance fighters and refugees--all tell of Cuba's tragic nineteenth century quest to be free of Spanish colonial rule.

The first concentration camps were created in Cuba during this time, a legacy of tyranny and slavery that carried from the Caribbean to South Africa to Central and Eastern Europe
Sabrina Gale
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: el-ed-340
POETRY: I thought this book was fairly informative about a part of the Cuban struggle for freedom from Spain. I liked that it was told from the perspective of Rosa and Jose, both key characters in this time of Cuban history, but two people I had never head of before. The fact that it was poetry made the story a little hard for me to read, but that might be because I don't love poetry as much as I like reading regular text.
Feb 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's good to finally get a chance to read the most infamous of the 2009 Newbery Honor books, but I'm confused by at least one plot gap. Lieutenant Death just sort of fades away without much explanation. With his Javert like intent upon killing Rosa, why did that disappear? Shouldn't we have gotten some conclusion there? Still, a great little book. And admittedly I probably wouldn't have read it had it not been for the big shiny award it garnered.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW! What a powerful story for such a little book.

Using sparse, beautiful poems to chronicle a period in Cuba's struggle for independence, this story depicts the beauty of compassion and dignity as well as the ugliness of greed and hate. Margarita has created a story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

"Can it be true that freedom only exsists
when it is a treasure,
shared by all?"
Really lovely and moving - there were some just *beautiful* lines of poetry and the verse form didn’t compete at all with the storyline.
I did come away feeling like the story was a little incompletely resolved - but perhaps that vague dissatisfaction was deliberate, since the history doesn’t have a truly happy ending - in the end, freedom is still elusive.
Anne, Unfinished Woman
This a very compelling set of poems relating the three wars of independence of Cuba, as told through the eyes of Rosa, Jose and Lt. Death. Very fine way to learn about this seldom taught part of world history. I was deeply moved by the feelings of these brave, resilient characters and the frustration of their enemies.
I'm not the biggest fan of novels in blank verse, but I do find this book to be useful.

A three part history of 19th century Cuba, this book is told in brief poems, mainly through the voice of Rosa, a young natural healer, and Lt. Death, her nemesis, the slaveholder.

The poems are occasionally gory (the slaveholder collects ears to count how many slaves he catches) and occasionally magical. They are all spare, blank verse.

I'm not sure a teen would pick this up on their own, but it would make a
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars
This book was amazing and I really loved this book for so many reasons. When I was first reading this book I never knew what to except but this book was really good all the way around. I loved how it was where you could see yourself in the story. I have never read any Margarita Engle so I was not sure what to except and I have really never heard anything from anyone about her so I thought I would just give it a try anyways. I would definitely read this book again. I would recommend this
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Luann by: JLG
You wouldn't think you would be able to learn so much from so few words! But not only are many details here, the emotion and depth of these characters shines through. This is a great way to learn some history and read some beautiful poetry at the same time. This made me want to learn more about Cuba's history. It definitely deserves the awards it has received.
Lisa Simmons
A historical novel in verse about three wars in Cuba around 1900s. Foreign involvement in domestic affairs is risky businesses! Just ask America and Spain. I’m so curious to learn more about this time period in Cuba.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, poetry
Written in verses, it tells a story about the struggle of Cuban during the wars of independence and how some of them played a big roles like Rosa, who is a nurse that always on the run and has to hide. She turns caves into hospital and people who had heard of her name come from near and far to get treatment.

This is one of the best book I've read this year that told a true story from the history. I learned a lot from this small book. Highly recommend!

Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The characters in this free verse poetry are actual historical figures during the three decades of war in Cuba from 1868-1898. I knew nothing of the Spanish occupation of Cuba and found this an interesting read to a bit of that history. Including one of the world's first concentration camps.
Kristen (BeyondSecretPages)
I don't care much about this book. The characters weren't realistic and it's really boring.
Anna Reid
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: t-l-307, poetry
Rosa, a natural healer who doesn't charge for her services, helps victims of the war as Cuba fights for freedom in the 19th century. She is known as a natural healer by some and a "witch" by others. She marries Jose who joins her in natural healing as they both pass on knowledge to other free slaves like Silvia. Towards the end of the book, the fictional character, Silvia is introduced who has lost her whole family due to disease and the war. She learns from Rosa, and helps others in need. This ...more
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Becky by: Sylvia Vardell
Set in the last half of the nineteenth century (1850-1900), The Surrender Tree traces the struggle of Cuba's freedom and independence movements. Told through multiple narrators (Rosa, Silvia, Jose, etc.), the poems are strong, vivid, and powerful. They capture the gritty hardships of a life lived on the run, in hiding. These freedom fighters and these nurses have a price on their head. They were especially hunted down by slavehunters.

When the slavehunter brings back
runaways he captures,
Aly Gutierrez
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
• Book summary
-This is a book of poems that follow the struggles of Rosa, a young girl who heals people with natural remedies. She was often viewed as a witch in the society. It was set during the nineteenth century and is a recollection of both Cubans and Spanish fighting over control of the island. Rosa writes about the runaway slaves and the slave hunters that go after them. Suddenly, Cuba is considered free and the slaves are freed. Though, the new found freedom did not last long. The
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latino
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle, tells the story of Cuba’s struggle for independence in the second half of the 19th century, through poems. Each page or poem tells a portion of the story, from the perspective of the different characters. Rosa and José are freed slaves trying to avoid the reconcentration camps, the military leaders, and the former slave catchers, while using Rosa’s skills as a natural healer to help those around them. As Cuba’s wars ...more
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical Fiction; Novel in Verse
This portrayal of Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain is told through alternating first-person poems. Characters both historical and composite include Rosa, a nurse who heals rebels and Spaniards alike using cures from nature; Jose, her husband and nurse; Lieutenant Death, a slave hunter; Captain-General Weyler of the Spanish military; and Silvia, a young girl who aspires to be a nurse. Engle weaves Spanish and English together to create terrible and
Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: higher level eighth graders and up
This book was historically enlightening and captivating due to Engle's amazing use of language. The book is written in prose form and covers Cuba's struggle for freedom from 1850 to 1899. At first glance, I thought that the book might be difficult to understand since it was written in poem form; however, it was surprisingly fluid and so interesting that I could not put the book down. Each poem is told by a different character, hence a different perspective. Rosa is the main character and she is ...more
Beverly Kennett
I read along with this story while listening to the CD. The book tells a fictional dramatization of historical figures struggling during the years of three wars for Cuba's independence from Spain. The story tracks Rosa's life. The book begins by describing how she fled to the woods to hide from soldiers and was taught how to use plants and nursing techniques to heal the wounded and sick while hiding the ill from soldiers, too. Then the story jumps a few years when Rosa is grown, and she marries ...more
Angela Bailey
Title / Author / Publication Date:
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom. / Margarita Engle. / 2008.

Genre: Young Adult Historical Nonfiction.

Format: Book (in verse) - print. 169 pages.

Plot summary:
"Poems that explore Cuba's fight for independence follow Rosa, a nurse who turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her, and who does her best to help everyone, with no regard to race or nationality" (NoveList).

Considerations or precautions for readers
This is an interesting historical fiction book about Cuba. The three main characters are: Rosa, Jose, and Lieutenant Death. Rosa and Jose help the wounded during several of the wars that Cubans had fought in. Rosa is a nurse who uses natural remedies to help cure the sick and injured. Rosa doesn't discriminated when it comes to helping people. She helps all people. Jose is her husband and they work together to help those in need. They both are constantly on the move and hiding. Lieutenant Death ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rll-538
This Newbery Honor Book, and winner of the Pura Belpre Medal by Margarita Engle is the account of Cuba's war for independence. The Surrender Tree takes you through the fight in verse stated by the characters living through it. Rosa, the healer who is hunted by Lieutenant Death, and her husband Jose along with their converted friend, secretly heal the slaves that flee and hide from the soldiers of Spain. The book dramatically takes you through the wars and perils of the refugees' struggle for ...more
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rachel by: David Suárez
I picked this book up based on a recommendation from a fellow librarian, and it did not disappoint. I was really impressed with the poetry of this short history of the Cuban Civil Wars, which started in 1868 and went through 1899, though the actual start of the book was a little bit before that in 1850/51. The wars are seen through the eyes of a slave nurse called Rosa and later by her husband Jose, as well as through the eyes of a slave hunter named Lieutenant Death, Captain General Weyler of ...more
L- Lisa
This Newberry Honor Book is a must read for insight into the history of Cuba's tragic struggles for freedom. The books' use of prose invites the reader to feel the pain of Rosa, the nurse and natural healer of Cubans and all the others from the Spanish army injured and sick during this long war. Her healing efforts were not selective as she worked endlessly to help. Cuba's reconcentration camps were the first in history and where Cubans died in hideous conditions.

Engle organizes the book into
Newberry Honor 2009

Pura Belpre Award 2009

This story is the story of Cuba’s struggle for freedom during three wars in 1850-1900. It is told from the viewpoint of both the rebels and those hunting them down. Rosa learned healing methods young and together with her husband, Jose, heals the hurt and sick, even the enemy. Lieutenant Death tells of his hunt for Rosa and trying to kill her. He even gets injured to learn how she works, but it doesn’t help. The various points of view made the story
Miz Lizzie
Feb 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 10 year olds and up
A fascinating poetic account of Cuban history that is not addressed much in children's literature. It is a difficult to fully comprehend the span of years involved, especially in between the various wars, given the narrative format of the poetic snapshots. The American complicity at the end is certainly an eye-opener. I would have found it easier to follow the actual history if there had been some explanatory prose as an introduction to each part. Certainly more historical and fictional ...more
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The Surrender Tree 1 1 Jan 26, 2018 08:24AM  

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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.
“If we knew how to find
the lost, we would know
how to rediscover
the parts of our minds
left behind
in battle.”
“Can it be true that freedom only exists when it is a treasure, shared by all?” 5 likes
More quotes…