Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#WNDB- The Red Umbrella and The Red Bicycle

6768377Gonzalez, Christina Diaz. The Red Umbrella
May 11th 2010 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Purchased copy.

Lucy and her brother Frankie enjoy their life in their Cuban community in 1961, but things are changing. School is canceled, neighbors are spying on each other, and the military is making its presence felt. At first, Lucy thinks that her parents are overreacting-- why can't she go to the movies, hang out with friends, and go to dances like always? Soon, her parents are pressured to be more active in the Revolution and send the children to various organizations. Unwilling to do that, the parents arrange to send the children to the US after the father is arrested for a very minor infraction. After spending some time in a camp in Florida, a family in Nebraska takes the children, and Lucy and Frankie have to improve their English, get used to the cold, and worry about whether their parents will ever be able to make it out of Cuba, or whether they will be able to return.

Strengths: This gave very good descriptions of every day life in both Cuba and Nebraska in the 1960s. I especially appreciated how well Lucy's interests were portrayed-- of course politics are important, but at her age, head band coordination can seem equally important. The danger was not underplayed, and the inclusion of a friend who embraced the Revolution made drove home that point.

Weaknesses: I know I'm always complaining that books are too sad, but given the topic of this book, it was almost too happy. The students and teachers in Nebraska, as well as the family the children were fostered with, were all very accepting, and there were very few problems, which seemed slightly unrealistic. It was a great relief, however, and certainly made the book more enjoyable. Ultimately a good call.

What I really think: The politics and settling in to life in the US are perhaps overly simplified, but I think this is a great introduction to a little covered historical event. Especially timely, with relations with Cuba changing. Adored the cover! Don't know how I missed this one!

23688743The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle
Published March 1st 2015 by Kids Can Press
E ARC from

Isabella, Isabella and  Simone Shin (Illustrator)
This nonfiction picture book traces the journey of a bicycle from the United States to Burkina Faso, West Africa, where it is used by a young girl as the primary mode of transportation for her family. When the bike is damaged, it ends up being refurbished and used as an ambulance for a local hospital. Additional information about the use of bicycles in Africa, as well as agencies in the US who collect and distribute bicycles to people who need them, makes this an interesting book that can help children be more globally oriented, and could be used as a great springboard for a service project. This is not the sort of picture book that younger readers could read for themselves, but offers just the right amount of information for older readers. I have been buying more nonfiction picture books for my middle school library, and they seem to appeal to a number of readers.

Since I ride my bike as MY primary source of transportation, I like to show my students that not everyone in the world has access to, or wants to drive, a car!

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