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MY HAVANA; Memories of a Cuban Boyhood

Author: Rosemary Wells with Secundino Fernandez

Illustrator: Peter Ferguson

Reserve at the Library

Publisher: Candlewick Press, ©2010

Material: Galley

Summary: Eleven-year-old Secundino "Dino" Fernandez is fascinated by his city: Havana. He always has a sketchbook and pencils handy, as he loves drawing the buildings and sites of his home town. When he was six, his family moved from Cuba to Spain to help relatives. Within three years of their return, Fidel Castro's Revolution began and the family fled to the United States. This is a memoir / biography written for transitional readers.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up

Interest Level: 9 and up

Reading Level: 4.5

Age of Child: Read with a 9-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: My daughter thought Dino was "cute" and was fascinated by his story. She drew on specific elements to connect them with people in her family (e.g., her uncle is an architect and loves to draw). She asked lots of questions and pored over the illustrations. [note: we read an Advance Review Copy and the illustrations were black and white.]

Adult Reader Reaction: I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled that my 9YO wanted to keep reading more of this book in one sitting. Cuba (particularly the Revolution) fascinate me and I love not only how rich the story is, but how it is so completely accessible to upper elementary readers. Even black and white the illustrations are incredible ... this is one I will definitely look for in the library.

Pros: Beautiful illustrations combine with Fernandez' personal journey make an incredible book for transitional readers (those who still need some illustration).

Cons: None.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a wonderful story and is an excellent choice for introducing kids to memoirs.

If You Liked This Book, Try: IN THE SHADOW OF THE CATHEDRAL: GROWING UP IN HOLLAND DURING WORLD WAR II   SKY HIGH, THE TRUE STORY OF MAGGIE GEE   SEVEN MILES TO FREEDOM: THE ROBERT SMALLS STORY

Educational Themes: There is a lot to explore with this book. In addition to talking about Cuba's history and immigration and emigration, there are "personal" themes from family to bullying to following your passion.

Notes: The Reading Tub® picked up an ARC of this book at BookExpo America. There are no expectations of review associated with this book.

Literary Categories: Fiction - memoir, biography, historical fiction, Cuba, family, art and architecture

Date(s) Reviewed: January 2011

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