The Red Umbrella - Review

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Publication date: May 11, 2010
ISBN 10/13:  0375861904 / 9780375861901

Category: Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Identity, Culture, Revolution, Evacuation, Family, Historical Fiction

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How I found out about this book: The Story Siren's 2010 Debut Author Challenge led me to look for more new authors. I read the synopsis and thought, this is going to be great!

My Review: I'd never really thought about Castro's 1961 takeover of Cuba and its effect on children. I'd never even heard of Operation Pedro Pan, which flew lots of Cuban refugees, in their teens and younger, into the US. The Red Umbrella gives a moving, personal glimpse into the life of Lucia, just 14 years old, who is sent with her little brother to live in Nebraska.

I adored this book. The possibility that Lucy and Frankie may never see their parents again kept bringing tears to my eyes. Lucy's just a regular girl, concerned with cute boys, the latest fashions, and going to the movies with her friends. Strange things begin to happen in their little town as a result of the Communist takeover, and it's interesting to see how she learns to deal with these changes. The lessons she learns about strength, family and friendship will stick with readers long after the symbolic red umbrella makes its final appearance.

I kept wondering, if I were in her shoes, would I have fallen for all the brainwashing, the Communists' calls to "honor" and "duty" that tore children from their families and sent them into dangerous places? Would I have thought that I was doing the right thing to turn in someone who was being disloyal to the government? It's easy now with hindsight, and because I am at least twice the character's age, but I still found her reactions unsettling and was very satisfied with the character development in this book.

I also felt very connected to Lucia's culture--they use some of the same words we say in the Philippines, like "basta" and "sigue"! I love flan just as much as her little brother Frankie does (that reminds me, there's some in the fridge, BRB).

Who should read this book: Middle grade readers will have a fine time with this book. It would be interesting to know how non-Spanish speakers react to the interjected lines of Spanish. My grasp of Spanish is good enough to be able to read through and not get lost, and the glossary in the back of the book helps, too! There is a little hint of death and violence, but most of the action is happening at a remove, and is not quite so scary as it could be. I think everyone should read this book with a box of tissues. And I think Pedro Pan kids, and their kids/grandkids should read it together, and share those tissue boxes!

The Red Umbrella is Christina Diaz Gonzalez's first novel.

Find the author at, on Twitter @ChristinaDG

This author is currently on tour! Find out more.

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