Margarita Engle was writing rhymed poetry at age 6 – a love that extended into her adult life and has won her an array of national awards.
She now has a new honor to add to the list: Young People’s Poet Laureate, an honor given to her by the Poetry Foundation.
The title of Young People’s Poet Laureate is given every two years along with $25,000 to a living writer who has devoted their career to young readers. Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation, said he is glad Engle has accepted the position and will now be a part of the Poetry Foundation Community.
“Margarita Engle’s passion, knowledge of nature and curiosity about the world make her work fascinating to children and adults alike,” he said.
Engle has written many children’s books, including “The Surrender Tree,” which in 2009 won a Newbery Honor award. She was the first Hispanic writer to win the award. “The Surrender Tree” is based on Cuba’s fight for independence. She also has won a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award in 2009, and a Pura Belpré Award for Latino/Latina children’s writers in both 2008 and 2009.
The older I got, the more I wanted to be communicating with the future, which is children.
Strongly influenced by her childhood summers spent in Cuba and growing up with a Cuban mother and American father, Engle’s books are inspired by Cuban history, nature and human nature, she said.
Engle grew up in Pasadena and attended UC Riverside, studying botany and agronomy. She has taught agronomy classes at Cal Poly Pomona. For years she wrote for an adult audience, but in 2006, she published her first book for children, “The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano.”
“I suddenly switched to writing children’s books,” Engle told The Bee in 2010. “The older I got, the more I wanted to be communicating with the future, which is children.”