My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood

Rosemary Wells and Secundino Fernandez, illus. by Peter Ferguson, Candlewick, $17.99 (72p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4305-8
After hearing a radio interview with Fernandez, an émigré architect, Wells tracked him down and asked to collaborate on a story about his childhood, which they deliver in this short novel that brims with feeling. From a young age, Secundino, called "Dino," filled sketchpads with renderings of Havana's architecture. Until 1954, when he moves to Spain temporarily to help an ailing family member, Dino's "world is sweet" ("Havana is like another mother to me, dressed in beautiful colors with sparkling jewelry"). This sentimentality is balanced by the loss Dino feels when Castro takes over and his family leaves for good. His new home in Manhattan is initially unwelcoming ("When you fall and scrape your skin on pavement, that is how New York feels against the eye," he recalls). The solution to his homesickness is to build an elaborate model of the Cuban capital on his bedroom floor. Ferguson's illustrations are infused with a burnished ochre light, well suited to Dino's warm memories. The ending, in which Dino and a new friend ascend a fairground ride at Coney Island and spot distant land—could that be Cuba?—is supremely satisfying. Ages 7–10. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/19/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
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