Review of All the Way to Havana

All the Way to Havana
by Margarita Engle; illus. by Mike Curato
Primary    Godwin/Holt    40 pages
8/17    978-1-62779-642-2    $17.99

A contemporary Cuban boy takes readers on a trip across the island as he and his family travel from their home in the country to Havana to visit his new baby cousin “on his zero-year birthday.” Before they can begin the journey, however, the boy must help his father repair the family’s ancient blue 1954 Chevy, “Cara Cara,” using “wire, tape, and mixed-up scraps of dented metal.” Readers are introduced to a piece of Cuban history through this story about the pre-Revolution cars that have by necessity been maintained and are still widely used on the island. Engle’s use of onomatopoeia, at times replacing the sound of the car with animal sounds (honks, roars, growls, whines), gives a sense of the modern-day blend of rural and city life: “Some of this island’s old cars purr like kittens, but ours is so tired that she just chatters like a busy chicken — cara cara, cara cara, cluck, cluck, cluck…” The coexistence of past and present is also seen in the illustrations — on one spread Cara Cara is followed down a dirt road by a horse-drawn wagon. The mixed-media illustrations capture the brilliant colors and scenic beauty of the island — both landscape and cityscape — as well as the multiracial makeup of its people. Endpapers are decorated with illustrations of pre-1960 car models still driven in Cuba. An author’s note provides more information about the continued use of these older cars, and an illustrator’s note details Curato’s research visit to the island.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Celia C. Pérez
Celia C. Pérez

Celia C. Pérez is the author of The First Rule of Punk (Viking), a 2018 Boston Globe–Horn Book honoree and a Pura Belpré Author Honor book winner for narration, and Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers (Kokila/Penguin). When not writing about quirky kids who break rules, she works as a community college librarian in Chicago. She is a former co-chair of REFORMA's Children and Young Adult Services Committee and served on the 2014 Pura Belpré Award committee.


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