TRAVELS IN CUBA

From the Travels With My Family series , Vol. 5

A meandering but agreeable introduction to modern Cuba.

When Charlie’s parents tell him and his brother, Max, that they will be heading to Cuba for vacation, they think of beautiful beaches and resorts. What they find off the beaten path is a very different Cuba.

When Charlie’s mother is invited to Cuba to work with local schoolchildren, the whole family goes with her to explore, learning that Cuba is a bit more complicated than they anticipated. As their tour guide begins to take them around Havana, it becomes apparent that some places are for turistas only, which doesn’t seem fair to young Charlie. “That was the point of all the rules, I decided. They were there to keep Cubans and us from talking to each other.” As they leave the city and find their way to Viñales and Trinidad, they discover the kind people, delicious food, and infectious music of Cuba. But they also encounter the poverty, hunger, fear, and rules that come with living in a communist country. As with her previous books in the Travels With My Family series, Gay tries to paint a portrait of Cuba from the perspective of children. She does a lovely job of highlighting Cuban culture while also addressing directly the very real issues that come with over 60 years of communist rule. However, the story itself is somewhat slow and lacks clear direction, jumping from place to place near the end.

A meandering but agreeable introduction to modern Cuba. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77306-347-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

WAYS TO GROW LOVE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 2

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.

A new baby coming means Ryan has lots of opportunities to grow love.

Ryan has so much to look forward to this summer—she is going to be a big sister, and she finally gets to go to church camp! But new adventures bring challenges, too. Ryan feels like the baby is taking forever to arrive, and with Mom on bed rest, she isn’t able to participate in the family’s typical summer activities. Ryan’s Dad is still working the late shift, which means he gets home and goes to bed when she and her older brother, Ray, are waking up, so their quality daddy-daughter time is limited to one day a week. When the time for camp finally arrives, Ryan is so worried about bugs, ghosts, and sharing a cabin that she wonders if she should go at all. Watson’s heroine is smart and courageous, bringing her optimistic attitude to any challenge she faces. Hard topics like family finances and complex relationships with friends are discussed in an age-appropriate way. Watson continues to excel at crafting a sense of place; she transports readers to Portland, Oregon, with an attention to detail that can only come from someone who has loved that city. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and occasional illustrations by Mata spotlight their joy and make this book shine.

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0058-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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