Engle, M. (2008). The surrender tree. NY: Holt
OHMYGOSH I LOVEE THIS BOOK! It should definitely be required reading for eighth-ninth graders. I think it would take a little more maturity than sixth graders have to fully appreciate the struggle that Rosa goes through as a healer. The story is written in narrative-first-person narrative poetry between Rosa, Lieutenant Death (a man who is after Rosa because she heals and helps people on both sides of the Cuban struggle), Jose (the man who Rosa falls in love with and marries), and Sylvia, an orphan. The poems tell of how Rosa is often thought of as a witch, but really just uses herbs and plants for healing. She escapes slavery in Cuba and becomes a nurse, helping people during the Cuban independence war. The books is cut into five parts, following Rosa as she grows and eventually marries Jose and they help to cure people together, and ends with the end of the Cuban war, where the United States take over Cuba.
The books is so much prettier and well thought out than I can ever describe, but it is a great account of real people’s struggles during something that they cannot help ,but do what they can to help. I would pair this with The Chocolate War and discuss how both has major characters who do what they feel is right in something much bigger than they are.