An immigrant tale builds on the author’s childhood experiences.
Six-year-old Gabriella and her parents leave Havana shortly after Castro’s takeover of Cuba and move to the Bronx. Adapting to life in a new country is daunting. After arriving in New York, Gabriella must adjust to vistas of city traffic instead of a beach scene outside her window, a new school, a new language and snow, something she’s never seen. Eventually, she makes friends, improves in English and awaits the day when her family will reunite with her beloved grandparents, still in Cuba: When that happens, her new house and new land truly feel like home again. The story is derived from the author’s own life and evokes tender memories, yet the narrator recounts her story in a flat and dispassionate voice and hurries events along. She also laces her reminiscences with Spanish words and sentences, which are translated immediately afterward in context, making for awkward pacing. The author wisely downplays politics in this picture book, but readers might enjoy learning more about Gabriella’s new experiences; for example, what was it like to play in snow for the first time? Fortunately for Gabriella and the author, she seems to have settled in easily and well. The true charm here is in the artwork, lushly rendered by Colón’s husband. His signature soft, muted watercolor-and-pencil style befits the nostalgic theme.
While it is hardly one-of-a-kind, it’s not a bad addition to immigration literature for this audience. (glossary, author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)