'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 21 September 2018

Review: Silver People A Tale From the Panama Canal

The world celebrated a monumental achievement at the opening of the Panama Canal in 1913 when part of the Amazon forest was flooded to make way for human commercial endeavours.

At that time and since, there's been no mention of the apartheid conditions workers were forced to accept.

There was no mention of the Cuban, Jamaican and many Latin American groups who worked as virtual slaves during construction, and there was certainly no acknowledgement of the many displaced species affected.

Margarita Engle gives the forgotten and the repressed their voices in the Silver People by inserting poetic snippets that encapsulate the characteristics of those who sometimes speak without words.

Margarita covers everyone and everything from trees, snakes and Howler monkeys to the local forest dwellers and the Jamaican, Cuban and 'almost white' groups who worked for silver while their white counterparts reaped gold.

Although life was often unbearable and the outlook,  unrelentingly grim, Silver People brings light and hope through the forging of unlikely friendships.

You might think the content of such a story would be too dark for Middle Graders, but Silver People is both brutally honest and a testament to the resilience and strength of human nature.

With not just survival, but the joy of living at its core, Silver People is a must read for anyone who has ever wondered how they'd cope with a difficult situation.

Title: Silver People A Tale From the Panama Canal
Author: Margarita Engle
Publisher: UQP, $16.95
Publication Date: 26 March 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780702253294
For ages: 10 years plus
Type:  Middle Grade Fiction