Cover image for With a star in my hand : Rubén Darío, poetry hero
With a star in my hand : Rubén Darío, poetry hero

1st ed.
Physical Description:
144 pages ; 22 cm.
A novel in verse about the life and work of Rubén Darío, a Nicaraguan poet who started life as an abandoned child and grew to become the father of a new literary movement. Includes historical notes.


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From acclaimed author Margarita Engle comes a gorgeous new novel in verse about Rubén Darío, the Nicaraguan poet and folk hero who initiated the literary movement of Modernismo.

As a little boy, Rubén Darío loved to listen to his great uncle, a man who told tall tales in a booming, larger-than-life voice. Rubén quickly learned the magic of storytelling, and discovered the rapture and beauty of verse.

A restless and romantic soul, Rubén traveled across Central and South America seeking adventure and connection. As he discovered new places and new loves, he wrote poems to express his wild storm of feelings. But the traditional forms felt too restrictive. He began to improvise his own poetic forms so he could capture the entire world in his words. At the age of twenty-one, he published his first book Azul , which heralded a vibrant new literary movement called Modernismo that blended poetry and prose into something magical.

In gorgeous poems of her own, Margarita Engle tells the story of this passionate young man who revolutionized world literature.

Author Notes

Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet and novelist. Her books include The Wild Book, Tropical Secrets, The Firefly Letters, The Lightning Dreamer, When You Wander, Mountain Dog, and Silver People. She has received several awards including the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Américas Award, and the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award for The Surrender Tree and the Pura Belpré Award and the Américas Award for The Poet Slave of Cuba.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

The latest biography in verse from Newbery Honoree Engle (Dreams from Many Rivers) adapts the life of beloved Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío (1867--1916). First-person poems describe childhood abandonment by his mother, his years as a child-prodigy poet, and his adulthood as a hard-drinking globetrotter. Engle documents Darío's shift from traditional rhymed forms to "just letting verses flow, finding their way/ into musical rhythms that dance on natural air," at times imitating these structures. In her own free verse, Engle distills a fascinating life and creates a portrait of a country where poetry, valued by many, could be a young person's ticket out of hardship. Darío navigates heartache and ponders national and ethnic identity, but Engle leaves out necessary context that would allow the subjects to come fully alive. Meaningful lines occasionally sing but sometimes feel repetitious. Nevertheless, in introducing readers to Darío, Engle creates a jumping-off point for poetic exploration. Ages 12--up. (Feb.)■

Horn Book Review

Written in first person, this heartfelt verse novel tells the fictionalized story of Rubn Daro (based on his autobiography), who was born in 1867 in Nicaragua and initiated the modernismo literary movement (a blend, as Engle writes in her appended authors note, of poetry and prose, complex rhymes, assonanceand free verse, as well as classical European and indigenous Native American images). Abandoned by his mother in the jungle as a baby, Daro is eventually taken in by a great-aunt and -uncle whose stories told aloud become the basis for his poetry. Daro becomes known as the Poet Boy of Central America and uses that fame to leave Nicaragua for El Salvador and Chile, where he seeks further literary commissions but experiences racism due to his dark skin and indio heritage. Daros childhood abandonment haunts him, making him feel unwanted, always in exile; these feelings eventually motivate him to work for social equality and develop new, experimental literary forms. Although its often difficult to place the larger narrative in historical context and track its subject through time, the brevity of the poems allows readers to make rapid progress through the novel, and the placement of line breaks is thoughtful and effective: With paper as my sky, words / are the wind that should help my mind fly. An authors note and a list of references complete the book. Julie Hakim Azaam January/February 2020 p.88(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Multiaward-winning author Engle presents the childhood and youth of famed Nicaraguan poet Rubn Daro.Engle tirelessly brings forth yet another influential Latin American whose life is little known to children in the United States. Based on Daro's autobiography, the free-verse novel is told in the voice of the poet as imagined by Engle. Readers learn of the mother who abandoned him at a young age under a palm tree; of the great-uncle who gave him a home; and of learning "the essential skill of storytelling" from this same great-uncle, "who tells tall tales / in a booming, larger-than-life / story voice." Daro started writing poetry as a child and was soon known as "el nio poeta" (the poet boy). Impulsive and smart, Daro's youth was both marked by events out of his control and controlled by his emotions. At the age of 19 he left Nicaragua for Chile, andaside from one last poem briefly summarizing the rest of his lifeit is here the novel ends. Unfortunately, the book focuses more on the emotional life that carried him forward than on the events surrounding him, leaving readers with the need to go elsewhere for a more complete picture. Beautiful verse but insufficient depth. (author's note, references) (Historical verse fiction. 12-15) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Engle's novel in verse tells the life story of Rubén Darío, the famed Niño Poeta (Boy Poet) of Nicaragua. Beginning with his sad and lonely childhood, Engle tells of Darío's status as an orphan abandoned by his mother, with no father to speak of. Motivated by anger and emptiness, he poured himself into writing, and the book tells his intriguing rags-to-riches story, written from a believable child perspective. Engle explores Darío's relationship with words and the effects of abandonment, trauma, grief, and loss on his work. The cyclical nature of events described, as well as the seasons' change and the rollercoaster of emotions all based firmly in research reflect how the poet's past affected his identity and career. Engle also pays close attention to Darío's mestizo identity and the importance of utilizing Spanish language, and there is a wonderful section on linework and rhyming patterns and structures, an educational element for young poets trying their hands at redondillas, octavillas, espinelas, and seguidillas. Along his life's journey, Darío encountered violence, alcoholism, terrible family secrets, devastating natural disasters, and racism but, as Engle writes, he was a hunter of daydreams, only content to share his explosive verse hurricanes. Darío would go on to found the movement of Modernismo, and Engle details more historical information in the back matter. Exceptional.--Stephanie Cohen Copyright 2020 Booklist