23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 02/22/2012

Lucia lives an idyllic life in Cuba. All she thinks about is her quinca, her friends and if Manuel will dance with her. Then Castro comes to power and everything changes. People start getting arrested, her parents become afraid, school is cancelled. Finally her parents decide to send her and her brother to America. They first go to Miami where they live in camps, then they are sent to live with the Baxters in Nebraska. Lucia and Frankie have to adjust to life in America, they have to learn English, they have to learn to live without their parents.

This is a wonderful book about a part of history I knew nothing about. I had never heard about the Pedro Pan Project. I had no idea 14000 Cuban children were sent to the United States when Castro came to power. I can’t imagine the heartache and fear that the kids must have felt to leave everything they know behind and move to another country without knowing if they will even see their parents again. The afterward of the book states that the majority of the kids were reunited with their parents but some never saw them again.

At the beginning of this book Lucia is a your typical spoiled teenager who really only thinks of herself. She is not aware of what is going on around her and doesn’t have a care in the world. As the book progresses she matures a lot and becomes someone who looks out for others and has an awareness of the world and what goes on. I think the book is a pretty realistic portrayal of what happened in Cuba, but it is shown in a kid friendly way. The violence is hinted at and shown but it is not thrown in the reader’s faces or graphic. This was not a pleasant time in Cuba and that is not covered up, but this is also a children’s book and that is taken into account which I appreciate.

The one thing I think is glossed over is the transition to America. Lucia and Frankie do have a very difficult time when they are in the camps in Miami, but there time in Nebraska seems almost too easy. They don’t have language problems or problems fitting in at school or making friends. I would think that there would be more issues being the only Cuban/Latino people in the middle of Nebraska at a time when there are probably only white people in the town. I find it hard to believe that the kids were that accepting of them. I think it reads great for a kids book, but I don’t find it that realistic. Still I think this was a wonderful book and I recommend it.

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