Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Pages: 284
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 11, 2010
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro's revolution. In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched. As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own. Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl? The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home."
Lucia Alvarez is like any normal teenage girl except the year is 1961 and she is living in Cuba.  Fidel Castro's revolution is happening and Lucia's world is about to change completely.  All of a sudden, her friends start going to meetings about the revolution, soldiers are all around, people she knows are getting in trouble and some even disappear or are killed! Lucia's family is starting to look suspicious since Lucia and her brother, Frankie, never show any interest in the revolution like other children.  Lucia's parents want more for their children and make a really tough decision to send them America on their own as part of Operation Pedro Pan.  They plan on meeting with their children in America eventually, but for now, Lucia and Frankie must make the scariest trip of their lives on their own and they must rely on the kindness of strangers.  The Red Umbrella is a fantastic and thought-provoking debut that will have a special spot in my library classroom.

The Red Umbrella really tugged on my heartstrings. I connected with Lucia and felt all of her joy, sadness, and terror.  She is such a good kid; she takes care of her brother, is a loyal friend, and does well in school.  When she had to go to America with her little brother and without her parents, I was a blubbering fool. To think about how this actually happened made The Red Umbrella and its message that much more powerful.  

I have never read any books about Cuba or Operation Pedro Pan before, so The Red Umbrella was an eye-opening lesson.  It made me want to learn more and read more about what these poor people had to go through.  I can't imagine sending my child by himself to another country without me; it's so very brave!  The Red Umbrella did an outstanding job making me feel all the emotions while still teaching me a history lesson about Cuba.  I think Diaz-Gonzalez did a fantastic job depicting Cuba in the early 60s and what the Cuban people had to go through.

If you are a fan of historical fiction or you just want to learn more about Cuba's history and its people, I highly recommend The Red Umbrella.  I was completely enthralled by Lucia's story and I hope there are more books written about this important topic. 

16 comments:

  1. I think this is an interesting time to read about, and I love that this book made you want to research the history more, only very special books are able to do that. I'm definitely interested in reading about Cuba's history, it's a great new lesson to learn about. Thanks for the review, this book sounds beautiful.

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    1. It was a VERY interesting time--definitely captivating. Thanks for checking out my review, Andrea!

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  2. YAYYYYYYYYYYYYY you liked it. I looove this book. Even for me with my knowledge of what happened, I especially loved seeing it through the eyes of a child. And you make an excellent point, I don't know how those mother's did it. So brave. Great review. It made my day to hear you liked it.

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    1. I knew you would be happy that I liked it! :) Thanks for visiting, Juju!

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  3. I love anything that has to do with Cuba! I studied there on exchange for a little while in university and fell in love with it. I didn't know about this book before but I am really excited to check it out now!

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    1. Wow- you studied there? That's incredible. You would definitely like this book then. I hope you get to read it soon. Thanks for visiting, Christa.

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  4. I don't think I've ever heard of this book, or Operation Pedro Pan. But I'm always on the lookout for any book that touches on Caribbeana. Is it a book for adults or YA?

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    1. It's a young adult book, but so worth reading if you are interested in Cuba's history. Thanks for dropping by!

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  5. This one has been on my list for a long time. This is a great reminder to move it up the pile! I've heard wonderful buzz about this book, and I've been on a historical fiction kick lately, so I think now is the perfect time for me to read it. Lovely review, so glad you enjoyed this!

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    1. Me too. I finally got the chance to pick it up and so glad I did. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for visiting, Lauren.

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  6. I'd forgotten about this book but I remember putting it on my TBR list before it was released. I will have to pick it up sometime. I love historical fiction, reading about different cultures and countries and learning about something new. Fantastic review!

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    1. I think you would really like it, Christina! I hope you get it read it soon. Thanks for dropping by!

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  7. I haven't read anything on Cuba and have never heard of Operation Pedro Pan, so I think this would be a really eye-opening read for me as well Christina! Thanks for bringing my attention to this one:)

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    1. It was eye-opening for me as well. I hope you get to read it soon. Thanks for visiting, Jenny!

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  8. This book is high on the wishlist! I really want to read this! After reading your review, I'm more excited to get it. It sounds so interesting & I just love everything that has to do with Cuba. I have read lots of books about Fidel, the revolution & the country self, but I never read a YA book about Cuba. I seriously can't wait! Great review, Christina! :)

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    1. You would definitely like this book then, Nina! I hope you get your hands on a copy soon. Thanks for dropping by!

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