Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Red Umbrella

Lucia's world is crumbling. Her school has been shut down. Her neighbors are being thrown into prison or killed for disagreeing with the Cuban revolutionists. Her best friend has joined the brigades and is leaving for military training.

Lucia's family faces danger when her  father becomes labeled a dissident. Lucia and her brother flee to the U.S. with other children to live in a foster home while her parents wait to get exit VISAs.

The pacing is fast and the characters well-developed  in this book. The author does  a nice job but it isn't loaded with historical facts. The story revolves mainly around characters and friendships. I thought the author could have captured more of the fear and overwhelming feelings of what it is like traveling to another country and living with different people. I kept thinking of how hard it is being illiterate in a different country: not being able to read signs, getting yelled at when you can't figure out the change in the grocery store, being passed over in line because of looking different, to helplessly stare at a form because you can't read the language to know how to fill it out. I think the author could have captured the tension and fear better in the part when Lucia and her brother, Frankie, entered the U.S. It is the little things that can be overwhelming; plus, Lucia had to look out for Frankie. The author does do a nice job with showing misunderstandings when learning a language and how funny slang can be.

While the language is easy-to-read and at a grade 4 or 5 level, this book has some adult themes in it which is why I put it under Young Adult. There is some violence such as when the prisoners are executed, but Lucia and Frankie don't actually see it, they just hear the gun shots. Lucia also sees a neighbor hanging from a tree in the park. He was murdered for organizing a protest against the revolutionaries. Lucia gets a letter from her best friend who gets raped at camp although the word "rape" is never used and some might just think she was attacked by a man. Lucia also has an unpleasant encounter with a boy at a dance that she likes but who is overly affectionate toward her.

Reading Level 4.5

:-) :-) :-) 3.75 Smileys

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