February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle | SLJ Review

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redstarENGLE, Margarita. All the Way to Havana. illus. by Mike Curato. 40p. Holt. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627796422.

PreS-Gr 2 –Accompanied by the vibrant onomatopoeia of an old rebuilt car, a brown-skinned boy travels with his family from their village in Cuba to the capital city, Havana, to celebrate the “zero-year birthday” of his cousin. The focus of this colorful picture book is on the car (nicknamed “Cara Cara”), one of Cuba’s many mid-20th-century American vehicles maintained through constant tinkering. “Ours is so tired that she just chatters like a busy chicken—cara cara, cara cara, cluck, cluck, cluck.” Award-winning poet Engle transports readers to Cuba through her lively verse, and Curato (author/illustrator of the “Little Elliot” series) does the same with his nearly photorealistic illustrations rendered in pencil, with digital color bringing out the bright tones of the tropics. Each spread includes endless detail, from the clothes hanging on the clothesline in the boy’s backyard to Havana’s beautiful architecture. The stars of the book, of course, are the 1950s cars, which Curato studied on a research trip to Cuba and depicts precisely in all their mixed-and-matched glory. While younger readers will simply enjoy the journey, older children may desire more information about the context of the story, some of which can be found in the author’s and illustrator’s notes. VERDICT A fun addition to the ever-popular genre of transportation picture books—this one with a unique perspective and message of perseverance.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

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