La Sombrilla Roja by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. September 26, 2017. Gables Publishing, 300 p. ISBN: 9780999214602. Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.8; Lexile: 590.
(Spanish version of the award-winning novel, The Red Umbrella)
In 1961, two years after the Cuban Communist revolution, LucIa Alvarez continues to live a normal teenage life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But things in her country are changing. Freedoms are being stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.
As the revolution’s impact becomes more oppressive, LucIa’s parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States–through a secret, clandestine movement to save the children.
Arriving in the United States, LucIa is eventually sent to live with well-meaning strangers in Nebraska, but she struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. And what of her old life? Will she ever see her parents, friends, or country again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?
Based on the real events of Operation Pedro Pan where over 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the U.S. in the two year period between 1960-1962 and the author’s own family experience, this novel depicts the pain of losing one’s homeland and showcases the generosity of the American spirit.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Mild sexual themes
Booklist (August 2010 (Online))
Grades 6-10. When Castro comes to power, teenage Lucía wants nothing to do with the revolution; she is more worried about what to wear to the school dance. Then she witnesses the horrifying public hanging of her father’s boss, and her parents send her and her little brother, Frank, to safety in the U.S., where a church places them with a kind foster home in Nebraska. Based on the author’s parents’ story, Gonzalez’s first novel captures the heart-wrenching, personal drama of family separation. At the start of each chapter, a brief newspaper headline gives a glimpse into Cuban politics and history, but the core of Lucía’s first-person narrative is her emotional upheaval as she cares for Frank and tries to fit into her eighth-grade class, where everything is strange and different. The characters, including the loving, imperfect adults, are authentic, and teens will recognize Lucía’s rebellious moments, which sometimes get ugly, as well as her anguish over costly long-distance calls “home” and her hope for reunion with her family.
Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2010)
This is the story of Lucía, a Cuban girl who, at the age of 14, leaves her hometown of Puerto Mijares and flies to the United States from Havana with her little brother, Frankie, but without their parents. After arriving at a temporary shelter, they are soon transferred to the Baxters’ home in Nebraska. Through Lucía’s captivating voice, readers travel in time to the year 1961, when members of the Cuban bourgeoisie witnessed the drastic transformation of their society into a communist system. While Lucía’s best friend, Ivette, and her secret sweetheart, Manuel, embrace the revolution and become, with their parents’ support, “brigadistas,” Lucía’s parents, a banker and a housewife, refuse to accept the changes imposed by the new government and make the heartbreaking and, for the times, shocking decision to send their daughter and son to a foreign country, without knowing if they would be able to see them again. Gonzalez enters the literary scene with this exceptional historical novel that portrays the beginning of the Cuban exodus. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)
About the Author
Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of several books including The Red Umbrella, A Thunderous Whisper, Moving Target, Return Fire, and an upcoming book in the Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts series. Christina’s books have received numerous honors and recognitions with publications such as Publisher’s Weekly, The Miami Herald, School Library Journal, and The Washington Post calling her novels engrossing, compelling, and inspirational.
Christina currently lives in Miami, Florida with her husband, sons, and a dog that can open doors. Her website is www.christinagonzalez.com.
The Red Umbrella Educator’s Guide
Around the Web
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