Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood

My Havana : Memories of a Cuban Boyhood by Rosemary Wells and Secundino Fernandez illus. by Peter Ferguson

Wells, a bestselling children's author was moved to tell Secundino Fernandez's story after hearing a 2001 radio interview with the architect. When Fernandez was a boy he and his parents had to leave his home in Havana, Cuba.

In 1954, Secundino (Dino) is six years old. He loves Havana and is constantly sketching the city buildings. Oct. 1954, is the first time the Fernandez family leaves Havana. The family moved to Spain for 3 years. Dino's father must look after his brother's family, while he recovers from a rooftop fall. Dino still carries a sketchbook but many times the pages stay empty. Dino misses home. At school Dino is teased for his Cuban accent. It's in Spain, where Dino first hears the word dictator and what it means to be ruled by one.

Abuela buys eggs and butter in secret from a man who hides them under his cloak and comes to the back door at night. Almost nothing from the outside, goods or medicine, ever makes its way into Francisco Franco's Spain. "Franco makes himself and his friends rich," says Abuela Maria "while the rest of us live on bread and water." She says this very softly as if someone might be hiding and listening.

In 1956, the Fernandez family move back to Havana. Dino's parents go back to work at the restaurant they own. In 1959 when Fidel Castro comes into power, its time for the Fernandez family to say good bye to Havana.

The book is filled with many facts and is very readable. I can almost see Fernandez sharing his childhood memories with Wells. I don't know where Ferguson, the illustrator was, but he couldn't have been very far. The gorgeous illustrations perfectly match the text. Also think they make My Havana that much more appealing to young readers.

There aren't many books for the 8 and older set that mention 1. Spain's dictator, 2. Castro and the ruler he overthrew, 3. Latino people come in many different hues and 4 . a look at Che Guevara, not as a good guy.

I feel like I really got to know Dino, the boy who loved to draw the buildings of his home country. My Havana is a wonderful memoir. I highly recommnand it.

Another blogger review @ Where The Books Are
read the first chapter


Anonymous said...

Doret, MY HAVANA is on my list of books to read. I'm DYING to read it! Thanks so much for this review. I'll send it to friends.

Anonymous said...

Doret, forgot to let you know who left the above comment:
Mayra Lazara Dole