Paloma’s Song for Puerto Rico: A Diary from 1898

Capstone. Aug. 2023. 112p. Tr $26.65. ISBN 9781669012658; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781669012610.
Gr 3-5–A young Puerto Rican girl witnesses her island’s transition from Spanish colony to U.S. territory in this richly detailed historical fiction novel. Twelve-year-old Paloma’s diary entries express the hopes and fears of her entire homeland as war for control of Puerto Rico reaches her coffee farm home. Will the new U.S. regime preserve native culture and offer self-rule? The answer comes in the novel’s final chapter, set 27 years ahead in 1925, as adult Paloma—now living in New York City—reflects on the fate of her family and the impact of U.S. rule. The Puerto Rico of Paloma’s youth is vividly realized, from the mango trees and chickens she tends to the colorful bustle of the marketplace where her family sells eggs and plantains. Spanish terms are woven throughout the narrative, a bit unevenly: some terms are defined as part of the narrative, some through grayscale spot art, some in the glossary. Additional back matter includes discussion questions and a QR code link to Smithsonian Museum resources on Puerto Rican history. Publisher notes indicate this is the first entry in a series depicting key moments in American history from a young Latinx character’s perspective.
VERDICT Ideal as a classroom read-aloud and recommended for libraries seeking to expand their collection on Latinx history and culture.

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