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The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez - Review

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Where did I get it? I bought it off a few weeks ago. After I read The Liars of Mariposa Island, I was intrigued by Operation Pedro Pan, an operation which saw 14,000 children leave their families in Cuba during the revolution for relative safety in the United States. About half of them had families or friends in the States to live in, but the rest lived in camps or were fostered into families. I'd recommend reading up on what happened! 

What's it about? Lucia and her brother Frankie live with their parents in a small town in Cuba. It's 1961 and the revolution is rumbling along. Children are being recruited to the youth military, including Lucia's friend Ivette. 

Lucia is a typical fourteen year old - desperate to be grown up, wishing she could wear make up, and looking forward to her quinces in November. She loves Cuba and her parents, but doesn't really like the revolution. One day she and Frankie see some soldiers execute their dad's boss. Their parents aren't revolutionaries either, and rumours are starting to swirl around the family. 

Lucia's parents decide that she and Frankie will leave Cuba. They arrive in Florida and live in camps for a few months before they are taken to Nebraska to live with the Baxter family. Everything is wildly different in America, not least the snowy winter. They occasionally get to speak to their parents, but everything coming out of Cuba is scary and confusing. 

I started reading this book not realising it is really a middle grade novel. Lucia is fourteen but skews a bit younger, and that was annoying me until I noticed the cover says "for ages 8-12". That would explain it! Once I got into the middle grade mindset I enjoyed it a lot more. 

What age range is it for? Well, as above! 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, they're Cuban. Lucia and Frankie encounter some racism in the United States. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No, except for some mild trauma I guess. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? A little, it isn't overly graphic and I think it is well done within the context of the book and within a revolution. 

Are there swear words? No. 

What criticisms do I have? I thought it was quite simplistic even for a middle grade novel. But I do think it's a good book for portraying what life was like for kids who left Cuba under Operation Pedro Pan. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was on the pile next to my bed! 

What do I think of the cover? I love it! I think it's really eye-catching. 

What other books is it like? The Liars of Mariposa Island for subject matter, obviously! 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

Where is the book going now? Well, unfortunately the book got a bit soaked on the edge of the bath, so I probably won't keep it!

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