About Marti’s Song for Freedom
As a boy, José Martí was inspired by the natural world. He found freedom in the river that rushed to the sea and peace in the palmas reales that swayed in the wind. Freedom, he believed, was the inherent right of all men and women. But his home island of Cuba was colonized by Spain, and some of the people were enslaved by rich landowners. Enraged, Martí took up his pen and fought against this oppression through his writings. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and forced to leave his beloved island.
Written in verse, with excerpts from Marti’s seminal Versos Sencillos, this book is a beautiful biography. It also is a tribute to a brilliant poet and courageous fighter for freedom.
Marti’s Song for Freedom, written by Emma Otheguy and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal, is a wonderful picture biography book for children. The colorful drawings and beautiful written words give a perfect age-appropriate account on who this historical figure was and the importance of words to combat inequality, fight for our rights, and bring on change. This book brings about a wonderful message that all kids should to learn in this day and age: yhe pen is mightier than the sword. All powerful people know this; and this has brought censorship and persecution of intellectuals, reporters and poets throughout history.
Emma Otheguy mentions in her acknowledgements that she was inspired to write the book because her parents used to read to her La Edad de Oro, Martí’s poetry book for children. This really connected with me, as I read the same book as a child. My mother is a very strong woman who firmly believed in freedom, revolution, fighting for equality and people’s rights. Because of this, it was wonderful to read this book with my 9 year old daughter. We actually read it in Spanish, and when she couldn’t understand something, I would read the translation in the English section. I usually wing the translation on the fly, but it was very nice having the English version of the text right there, and with as good a flow and cadence as the Spanish version.
I also want to mention how beautiful and colorful Beatriz Vidal’s pictures are. They are the perfect compliment to this wonderfully written book. What stands out the most is the use of colors, and how they illustrate the emotional state of Martí in the different stages of his life.
Because of the strong message and tragic life of the poet, I believe this book is best for older elementary school aged children, as well as middle-graders. It most definitely will spark many questions and a much better comprehension of the difficult political times that we are now living in the US.
About the Author
EMMA OTHEGUY is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded Magazine Merit Honors by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City. This is her picture book debut. You can find her online at emmaotheguy.com
About the Illustrator
BEATRIZ VIDAL is an internationally known artist and a prize-winning illustrator of children’s books. Her most recent book for Wisdom Tales Press is Little Lek Longtail Learns to Sleep, which was written by Bette Killion. Little Lek Longtail was an award-winning Finalist in the 2016 USA “Best Book” Awards. For her first book for Wisdom Tales, Ms. Vidal had collaborated with author Alexis York Lumbard on the Wisdom Tales book Pine and the Winter Sparrow, a retelling of an American Indian tale. Pine and the Winter Sparrow won a Gold Medal in the “Illustration – Graphic” category of the 2015 Midwest Book Awards.
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