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With a Star in My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero

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A 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, A 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 new literary movement called Modernismo that blended poetry and prose.


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A 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, A 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 new literary movement called Modernismo that blended poetry and prose.

30 review for With a Star in My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    What a wonderful way to learn about a noted poet ... through poetry!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    I became interested in Ruben Dario when I was doing research on dyslexia and poetry, after being inspired by Margarita Engle's The Wild Book (in which the main character is a Ruben Dario fan.) I consider myself something of a poetry aficianado, but I'd never even heard of him. Fact is, nearly all of the poets I learned about, even in grad school, are English (although to be fair, reading poets in translation is not the ideal way to study them.) Even in English, though, Dario's poetry is breathta I became interested in Ruben Dario when I was doing research on dyslexia and poetry, after being inspired by Margarita Engle's The Wild Book (in which the main character is a Ruben Dario fan.) I consider myself something of a poetry aficianado, but I'd never even heard of him. Fact is, nearly all of the poets I learned about, even in grad school, are English (although to be fair, reading poets in translation is not the ideal way to study them.) Even in English, though, Dario's poetry is breathtaking. Anyway, I was delighted when I learned Engle was giving Dario is own book. It's just lovely, and I highly recommend it! A fabulous addition to the biographies in verse Engle has become known for. Also--that cover! Gorgeous.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    Engle explores the life of Rubén Darío. Born in Nicaragua, abandoned by his mother, Rubén began experimenting with different, more complex poetry forms at such a young age, he became known as el niño poeta. This is such a lovely book and led me to discover more about the poet and read his own poems.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Margarita Engle crafts a beautiful novel-in-verse of the early life of Nicaraguan national poet Rubin Dario. The prose is alive with vivid words painting Dario’s world filled with emotion as he experiences abandonment, political unrest, loss, racism. This is definitely a finely crafted YA biography that will be savored by poetry lovers. Highly recommend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Claire Annette

    With a Star in My Hand is a biography written in verse about Nicaragua's national poet. Abandoned by his mother as a child, Rubén Darío, was raised by his great uncle, El Bocon – Big Mouth and his wife, Bernarda. His childhood was filled with stories told by his uncle, the cook, and the priest yet he desperately wanted to know his own story. We learn of his beginnings as a child poet- Math, geography, and grammar Also have their orderly place in my school day, But poetry arrives in its own way, Wild With a Star in My Hand is a biography written in verse about Nicaragua's national poet. Abandoned by his mother as a child, Rubén Darío, was raised by his great uncle, El Bocon – Big Mouth and his wife, Bernarda. His childhood was filled with stories told by his uncle, the cook, and the priest yet he desperately wanted to know his own story. We learn of his beginnings as a child poet- Math, geography, and grammar Also have their orderly place in my school day, But poetry arrives in its own way, Wild like a hurricane, A storm of turbulent wind And ocean waves! Margarita’s beautiful verses flow on the page bringing this poet to life who, as a twelve-year-old, sold his poetry for treats, tickets to the circus, and money. When he was published in a newspaper, he became known as el niño poeta, the boy poet. Margarita’s poems describe the abandonment, betrayal, revolution, illness, love, work, and travel that contributed to the making of Rubén Darío. His poems have touched people all over the world as he became a voice of truth and inspiration and changed literature written in Spanish.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    Reviewing this for a professional magazine, so see final (amazing) review there.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    Engle captures Dario's life by telling his story through poetry. Readers see his world come to life as he grew up and matured in his gift. Engle captures Dario's life by telling his story through poetry. Readers see his world come to life as he grew up and matured in his gift.

  8. 4 out of 5

    The

    With a Star in My Hand is a poetic biography by Margarita Engle, a Cuban-American writer, on Rubén Darío, a famous Nicaraguan poet of Spanish-Indian descent. Set during his childhood and adolescence, the book focuses on the development of Darío’s poetry and how his work is intertwined with his life. However, writing poetry isn’t easy for him as he has to deal with being underestimated by the adults around him. This is a good book because even though it isn’t an autobiography, and even though I ha With a Star in My Hand is a poetic biography by Margarita Engle, a Cuban-American writer, on Rubén Darío, a famous Nicaraguan poet of Spanish-Indian descent. Set during his childhood and adolescence, the book focuses on the development of Darío’s poetry and how his work is intertwined with his life. However, writing poetry isn’t easy for him as he has to deal with being underestimated by the adults around him. This is a good book because even though it isn’t an autobiography, and even though I haven’t read any of Darío’s works, he is speaking to me through Engle’s poems. As Engle herself says in her author’s note, this is because of Darío’s writings: he wrote with such detail that she could describe even his feelings with accuracy. Engle started transporting us into Darío’s world not with any specific words, but simply through her medium. By deciding to write his biography in poetry instead of prose, Engle makes us feel that it is really him telling us his life through his pieces, especially since many of her poems about him are in his first-person perspective. First-person prose does bring you close to the narrator, but Engle’s choice of writing effectively hides her role in the book, allowing us to focus on Darío’s story and not on the storyteller. Engle also managed to accurately describe Darío’s character. He is truthful, refusing to say what politicians want him to, even when there could be terrible consequences; and he is idealistic, falling in love multiple times and hoping that each crush will run away with him despite the age of him and the love in question. However, these traits make him rather rebellious and impulsive, attributes that leave him in trouble later in the book. Engle also skillfully uses setting to contrast the poor, down-to-earth nature of rural Latin America with the advanced but repressive urban environment of the industrial parts of the continent. She does this by exploring the people and environment around Darío instead of simply around him: the religious villagers, the statues of those who have passed, corrupt government officials, and racist Chileans are some of the subjects she shows us. The skill in Engle’s description of Darío’s two main environments is important because his journey between these two worlds is a crucial event in his story. As Darío’s life becomes urban, he faces major challenges. He discovers the corruption in the government, but when he challenges it, he is punished. When he gets money for his work, he squanders it and ends up in prison. However, despite these setbacks, Darío must learn to deal with city life as it is in this environment that his poetry will eventually grow. This book gets four out of five stars. It describes Darío’s character very well, and its story is quite captivating. However, the book features quite a few terms that only poets would understand, which is why the book currently targets that demographic only. For example, the poems “Practicing Traditional Poetic Forms”, “Challenging Myself” and “Why I Begin to Crave Improvisation” are pretty much gibberish without a little poetic knowledge. To fix this, the author shouldn’t use obscure poetic jargon (like hendecasyllabic, along with Spanish poetry words that don’t translate into English). Some poems would have to be removed from the book as a result (like the three I mentioned earlier), but they don’t contribute that much to the story anyway, since other more “accessible” pieces already tell the reader about Darío’s relationship with poetry (like “Lightness”, which describes how poetry heals him in times of pain). These suggestions would help the book reach the demographic of academic readers who don’t care for popular narrative fiction: people who want a story with deep themes and artistic merit. There is much in With a Star in My Hand to analyze, and academic readers would enjoy interpreting Darío’s thoughts and actions. In conclusion, With a Star in My Hand is a book on Rubén Darío that any academic reader should read, as it features strong characterization and an evolving setting that creates a captivating plot. Engle’s written a Spanish version of this very book, and I’m sure that just like the English title, it is a star of a novel.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    Rubén Darío was a Nicaraguan poet who became famous for his poetry at a young age. In this biography-in-verse, Margarita Engle follows Darío from his early childhood to when he had his first book of poetry published at the age of 21. Darío was abandoned by his mother and taken in by family. From a young age, he was a dreamer who loved listening to and reading stories. As he got a little older, he started writing poetry, and discovered he could trade his poems for things he wanted, such as candy. Rubén Darío was a Nicaraguan poet who became famous for his poetry at a young age. In this biography-in-verse, Margarita Engle follows Darío from his early childhood to when he had his first book of poetry published at the age of 21. Darío was abandoned by his mother and taken in by family. From a young age, he was a dreamer who loved listening to and reading stories. As he got a little older, he started writing poetry, and discovered he could trade his poems for things he wanted, such as candy. "With a Star in My Hand" is a lovely book, and Engle seems to enjoy poetry as much as Darío did, both the rules of it, and the enormous possibility for improvisation. The tight focus on his youth frames one of the main questions that seemed to trouble Darío - why should the passion and hope of a young person be stifled, rather than embraced? Why tell someone like this troubled teenage poet to wait for the wisdom and circumspection of adulthood, rather than allowing them to utilize their strengths? I recommend this to poetry fans and anyone interested in learning a little bit of Nicaraguan history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A poet writes poems about a poet.✨ ✨ But seriously, this is stunning. Engle expertly weaves together a novel in verse on the early life of Rubén Darío. 🖊 It’s packed with emotional poetry that exquisitely captures what it’s like to be young. What it’s like to be on the edge of political explosion. What it’s like to have so much to say, but doubts about who will listen. What it’s like to have one hand in reality, the other up among the stars. ⭐️ It’s very much rooted in Darío’s time, but surprisingl A poet writes poems about a poet.✨ ✨ But seriously, this is stunning. Engle expertly weaves together a novel in verse on the early life of Rubén Darío. 🖊 It’s packed with emotional poetry that exquisitely captures what it’s like to be young. What it’s like to be on the edge of political explosion. What it’s like to have so much to say, but doubts about who will listen. What it’s like to have one hand in reality, the other up among the stars. ⭐️ It’s very much rooted in Darío’s time, but surprisingly timeless. 🕰 Bonus: an author’s note fills in Darío’s bio and leads readers to resources for learning more about his incredible life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Ruben Dario was abandoned by his mom in a field of cows when he was very young. He was taken in and adopted by older family members. He was always fascinated by words and poetry and began writing poems to express his thoughts and feelings. He became known as the Boy Poet and used his poems as currency - to buy candy or to get into the circus. Although he became famous at an early age, his life was not an easy one. This is a novel in verse biography about a Nicaraguan poet. Engle's writing is lyri Ruben Dario was abandoned by his mom in a field of cows when he was very young. He was taken in and adopted by older family members. He was always fascinated by words and poetry and began writing poems to express his thoughts and feelings. He became known as the Boy Poet and used his poems as currency - to buy candy or to get into the circus. Although he became famous at an early age, his life was not an easy one. This is a novel in verse biography about a Nicaraguan poet. Engle's writing is lyrical and evocative. It begs one to savor it as one reads. It highlights a poet from a culture that certainly does not get enough attention and therefore is an important addition to the collective.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Margarita Engle is a gifted poet and sharing this account of Rubén Darío’s early life and growth into a young man and poet is emotionally stirring and empowering. So much of what Darío accomplished defied the circumstances he faced as a child - circumstances many children still face today. Denied and abandoned by his parents, exposed to violence and injustice, Darío found expression through the words of others and his own writing. There is a depth of power in the idea that poetry is storytelling Margarita Engle is a gifted poet and sharing this account of Rubén Darío’s early life and growth into a young man and poet is emotionally stirring and empowering. So much of what Darío accomplished defied the circumstances he faced as a child - circumstances many children still face today. Denied and abandoned by his parents, exposed to violence and injustice, Darío found expression through the words of others and his own writing. There is a depth of power in the idea that poetry is storytelling, and words the vehicle to express emotions and challenge injustice as a way to effect change. A story of heart, feeling, and power, this is Margarita at her best. Highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anita McDivitt Barrios

    This is an interesting portrait of child-poet turned international poetry star, but chronic alcoholic, Rubén Darío, a Nicaraguan poet during the turn of the century. His first published poem comes at age 13, in a local newspaper, but he quickly rises to international acclaim. He flees Nicaragua for El Salvador, where the president takes him under his wing, and where his drinking issues begin to surface. He's best known for initiating the Spanish-American literary movement known as modernismo (mode This is an interesting portrait of child-poet turned international poetry star, but chronic alcoholic, Rubén Darío, a Nicaraguan poet during the turn of the century. His first published poem comes at age 13, in a local newspaper, but he quickly rises to international acclaim. He flees Nicaragua for El Salvador, where the president takes him under his wing, and where his drinking issues begin to surface. He's best known for initiating the Spanish-American literary movement known as modernismo (modernism) that flourished at the end of the 19th century. This is a young adult book, but would be excellent to teach in an 11th or senior year high school course comparing Engle's poetry about Darío to Darío's own poetry. The Gutenberg Project has several of his books available, such as Azul. And I found this excellent website showing a timeline of his poetry and world events to help put his literary impact into context. Looking for more book suggestions for your 7th/8th grade classroom and students? Visit my blog for more great middle grade book recommendations, free teaching materials and fiction writing tips: https://amb.mystrikingly.com/

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    A decent biography of the famous Nicaraguan poet set to poems written by Engle. Engle does a good job of creating a readable narrative while focusing on highlights of Darío’s life and mostly avoiding preachy lessons. My one complaint would be that the subject matter feels YA while the poem structure reads as middle grade. I enjoyed With a Star in My Hand, but I have no idea what age group would enjoy the book. I can’t see teenagers who would be inspired by Darío’s story wanting to read something A decent biography of the famous Nicaraguan poet set to poems written by Engle. Engle does a good job of creating a readable narrative while focusing on highlights of Darío’s life and mostly avoiding preachy lessons. My one complaint would be that the subject matter feels YA while the poem structure reads as middle grade. I enjoyed With a Star in My Hand, but I have no idea what age group would enjoy the book. I can’t see teenagers who would be inspired by Darío’s story wanting to read something they might consider poems for kids. Quasi-recommended. Quasi-recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Staller

    Not quite historical fiction, not quite nonfiction look at the life of Ruben Dario, a Nicaraguan poet. Told in verse, this novel explains his importance to the poetry community and how he was revolutionary in how he broke the conventional rules of what poetry was. I think this novel will be a tough sell to students because of its genre and form, but I learned a lot from it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Candice Trimm

    Beautifully executed storytelling through verse. Margarita Engle introduces us to the famous Ruebn Dario, a poetry hero. She magically translates his story into the pages of this book. I'm amazed by how she captures Rubens, emotions, dreams, and struggles while walking us through his timeline. I am in Awe of both Engle and Dario. Beautifully executed storytelling through verse. Margarita Engle introduces us to the famous Ruebn Dario, a poetry hero. She magically translates his story into the pages of this book. I'm amazed by how she captures Rubens, emotions, dreams, and struggles while walking us through his timeline. I am in Awe of both Engle and Dario.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This starts a bit slow, but once it gets going it's quite compelling, and I think it's one of Margarita's strongest verse novels. I think it works better than some of her other subjects because his career both started young and was shaped so much by his young life, so it makes for a more immediately appealing person to follow. This starts a bit slow, but once it gets going it's quite compelling, and I think it's one of Margarita's strongest verse novels. I think it works better than some of her other subjects because his career both started young and was shaped so much by his young life, so it makes for a more immediately appealing person to follow.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mr. Wright

    What a beautiful, quick read. A book of poems about a poet, it was historical and beautiful in nature. It reminded me of the importance of now, and to always value love, health, and truth over wealth and other superficial things. A nice read for a Sunday morning. I highly recommend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lola Fash

    I picked up this book not knowing anything about it, not even that it was an autobiography, and I have to tell u that I was not disappointed. It was nice to tell of a poet through poems and now I want to read Rubén Darío's tornado is words!!! I picked up this book not knowing anything about it, not even that it was an autobiography, and I have to tell u that I was not disappointed. It was nice to tell of a poet through poems and now I want to read Rubén Darío's tornado is words!!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This would be a great teaching book, especially in a unit about poetry. Engle writes in the voice of Darío, giving the reader access to his poetic education and his experiences of politics in the Americas.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Denis

    A lovely memoir about a loved poet, Ruben Dario, written in verse. This book is relatable to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or has felt rejection. I thought it was clever way to share the life of a poet who influenced the author's family. A lovely memoir about a loved poet, Ruben Dario, written in verse. This book is relatable to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or has felt rejection. I thought it was clever way to share the life of a poet who influenced the author's family.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kip

    I loved this book so much! Not only is it filled with the background on such a beloved poet but the poetry here sings on its own. Such gorgeous writing!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    beautifully written but not sure of audience appeal.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    For a poetry book I thought this was very good. Not a lot of rhyming which is not all about poetry but it still tells a great story.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    3.8 Stars

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Another wonderful novel in verse by a great author.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Great Books

    Readers are introduced to the tumultuous early life of Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario and the birth of modernismo in this poignant biography in verse. Reviewer #20

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Alessandri

    I’m a huge fan of Margarita Engle‘s work. WITH A STAR IN MY HAND is beautiful. I loved learning more about Rubén Darío, and Engle’s poetry is absolutely lovely.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    Biographical novel in verse about the life of Ruben Dario (who I previously knew next to nothing about). Slow to start, but really good overall.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    This historical novel in verse about Nicaraguan poet, Ruben Dario, moved too slowly. A lot of written word about poetic form, and not a lot of action. Probably won't hold students' interests much. This historical novel in verse about Nicaraguan poet, Ruben Dario, moved too slowly. A lot of written word about poetic form, and not a lot of action. Probably won't hold students' interests much.

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