Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems created by Margarita Engle are romantic in places and always serious with her pride in her heritage. And while history tends to “lump” Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Native and other “Hispanic peoples” into one group, Engle shows how each one is separate, how each interacted with the others how Moctezuma’s great-granddaughter could also be Cortez’s great-granddaughter.
The mix of historical and fiction characters is a nice touch. Each poem shows how history has repeated itself multiple times but also, there is always something new as well (and yes, sometimes it is good and sometimes not so much). Over all this book is complex but is simple too. This sounds like a contradiction but is not. Since you read this as a novel (though written in prose poetry) you have a basic story, but the complexity comes when you start to dig deeper into the people and places presented and see the connections of then and now; as well as how the Conquistadors were like the English settlers later.
I wrote down a few names of people I wanted to learn more about such as a baseball player and a poet. But she has covered scientists, activists and much more. She even ties in a “familiar” face if you have read her Jazz Owls. The only real complaint I have is the fact that the tone is modern. I was not sure how much “accuracy” there was in the feelings/wording she uses is. (Would de Leon really reflect the way he did?) Yet, because of the modern language, it does move the story along and makes it accessible to today’s reader. And that age is about 10 to 14 for kids, but adults PLEASE pick this up, too. It has a lot to offer.
Since my copy of Dreams from Many Rivers was a reader copy, I am not sure how finished the illustrations by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez were/are. However, they seem to be a lovely flowy, probably black and white accent to the feel of the text. (Due October 2019)