Posted in 2014-2015 Club, Not Mock Newbery

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal, by Margarita Engle

Silver PeopleSummary:  Fourteen-year-old Mateo and other Caribbean islanders face discrimination, segregation, and harsh working conditions when American recruiters lure them to the Panamanian rain forest in 1906 to build the great canal.

Houghton Mifflin

Find it at WCPL

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One thought on “Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal, by Margarita Engle

  1. I found the subject Margarita Engle chose to write this most recent book on, a very fascinating and important moment in history and a topic that her beautiful verse is well suited for. Silver People focuses on about four people including the animals and plants in the jungle and how all of their lives were affected by the building of the Panama Canal. This book dealt with everything from the trickery that was used to recruit people, the poor living conditions for all people, the unequal pay, to the lives of the animals in the jungle and how all the digging and chopping affected their natural rainforest. I loved the way she used different techniques in her poetry when she wrote about the jungle animals so that it felt like it was truly the animals speaking. Her writing really seemed to build the forest around us while still leaving room for us to imagine it. Of the four characters, Mateo seemed to be the main one and was an important part in the other three character’s lives, one as a romance, one as an apprentice, and one as a friend. Because of the writing style that didn’t really describe people in detail, you would gather details on the characters depending on how they acted and who they were friends with, which most of the time, gave me just enough information on them to connect to. I found the theme to be working/living together despite differences and I thought the it was really well developed in that with the building of the Panama Canal, so many different people had come together all expecting different things and all receiving different things however, unless they worked together and solved their differences, this great historical feat never would have been accomplished. The book ends with many of the workers walking away to be replaced by machines and living in the jungle finding harmony with the plants and animals which closes of the theme with a nice twist. Overall, Silver People did a beautiful job of shining the light on an event in history while using an interesting and light writing style to contradict all the drudgery and racism of the story and create an alive setting and realistic people. I am not sure whether or not I would vote this as the winner this year, but it is definitely one of the best books in verse I have read and would be a great book for people fifth grade and up who want to learn about the Panama Canal or are a fan of poetic-like novels.

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