I heard of Jose Marti when I read The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Arturo's grandparents loved Marti's poetry and his place in Cuban history. The excerpts that Arturo read within the story made me curious, so when I saw a picture book biography of Marti, I had to read it. The bilingual nature of the text makes sense, since Marti lived in the United States for years during his exile from Cuba, and he helped to make the U.S. and other countries around the world aware of conditions in Cuba and the struggle for independence taking place there. The gouache illustrations depict key scenes from Marti's life - seeing the treatment of slaves in the cane fields, working in the quarry after his arrest, giving speeches, walking in the Catskills during his time in New York, and Battle of Two Rivers where he was killed. But the pictures also show the things about Cuba that he loved so much. The palmas reales, the diversity of Cuba's population, even the iconic metal grill-work decorations on windows and pastel colors on the buildings provide a look at the country he held dear. Readers can also see the beauty of the Catskill Mountains, the street scenes of New York, and Marti writing at his desk. The illustration that Marti himself would treasure most is the crowd celebrating Cuba's independence; there are people waving their hats in the air, playing guitar and drums, even a couple dancing. It is a party he would have been proud to join.
The text works in pieces from Marti's poetry, as well as using images from his poems to bring his passion to life. An afterword and author's note provide additional information, and an excerpt from his Versos Sencillos is included. After finishing this biography, many readers will want to find a full length copy of his poems to read. This is a solid addition to school libraries and could be used in history lessons as well as language arts classes.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.