FICTION

Letters from Cuba

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Aug. 2020. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525516477.
COPY ISBN
Gr 3-7–Pura Belpré Award winner Behar’s newest story is based on her own grandmother’s immigration journey. Eleven-year-old Esther bravely travels to Cuba from Poland to help her father earn enough money for the rest of their family to join them, including her mother, grandmother, three brothers, and cherished sister Malka. The narrative is told in a series of letters from Esther to Malka, chronicling her journey across the sea and her experiences in this new homeland. As a means to earn money for her family’s travel arrangements, Esther puts her sewing skills to good use by making custom dresses for many islanders. Throughout the story, readers learn that many Jewish people are arriving in Cuba, trying to escape the Jewish persecution in Europe, despite Nazi sympathy infiltrating the island. Readers dive into the story headfirst as they get to know Esther, her family, and her newfound friends. Esther’s first-person descriptions of people and the island craft a vivid experience of Cuba’s sights, sounds, and culinary delights.
VERDICT Readers will not want to part with this story of resilience. A World War II refugee tale that spotlights dedicated hard work. A must-have for public, elementary, and middle school libraries.

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