Sunday, October 17, 2010

90 Miles to Havana

Enrique Flores-Galbis book, 90 Miles to Havana is a historical novel about the Pedro Pan project that took place in 1960-61 as Cuban parents tried to send their children to the United States to avoid Marxist-Leninist indoctrination.

Julian and his family live in Havana during the time fo the revolution, when life in Cuba is becoming unpredictable and dangerous. Neighbors begin to send their children to the United States and move away. Julian can't believe that families would actually send their children away - his mother would never be able to live without her sons. However, when their family comes under suspicion, Julian and his brothers are sent to Florida until his parents can get out of the country and they can be reunited. While their mother believed life in America at a camp would be a step up, the boys are reunited with a bully from their hometown who attempts to make their lives miserable. Things don't unfold as they or their parents planned, and Julian takes a few risks to help reunite his family.

I enjoyed this novel, while wishing the author would have included some historical notes about the Pedro Pan project. Again, another event in history I had never heard of. The portion that takes place at the camp where Julian and his brothers are bullied was also very hard for me to read. I don't know what it is about bullying exactly, but every story that contains bullying really bothers me. There were also a few historical aspects that I wish the author would have included about the Revolution in Cuba- who the president was that they got rid of, and who the new president was. There are references to President Kennedy, but I could see young adult readers not even really getting what time period this took place in -especially if they didn't know it was based on a real event.

Flores-Galbis is able to include a lesson for Julian and his friends at the camp showing them that the Revolution in Cuba resembles what is occurring in the Camp as they are being managed by Caballo, the bully. Dolores, the cook, tries to get them to see that they should try and resolve their issues like Americans - operating a democracy.

Overall, an interesting young adult historical fiction novel sharing the events of the Pan Pedro Operation, an event the author experienced personally as a young boy fleeing Cuba.

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