Nov 26, 2011

Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York!

Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York! by Edie Colón
Illustrated by Raúl Colón

    In Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York!, Edie Colón tells the story of a 6 year old cuban girl named Gabriella. The story is basically autobiographical, but Colón explains on a note at the end of the book that she decided to use a different name for the main character "so that I could have some distance from my story."
     Fidel Castro has recently taken control of Cuba and under the banner of the Revolution, the government has taken control of all private property, including Gabriella's family restaurant.  In search of a better life, Gabriella's parents move to New York.  They travel ahead to get everything ready for their new life, while she stays with her grandparents in Havana.  When her father comes back to take her to the Bronx, Gabriella must face the pain of leaving her adored grandparents behind, not knowing when and if she'll see them again.  During the rest of the book, we see Gabriella dealing with the lifestyle changes after the move to New York. It is colder, more urban, she's far from her beloved ocean, and she doesn't speak the language. Throughout the school year, Gabriela makes new friends and learns to speak English. And at the end, she's reunited with her grandparents. The whole family is together again, but this time in their new home in the Bronx.
     Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York! is a good book to share in the multicultural classroom. As an ESL teacher, I know my English Language Learner students will relate to Gabriela's struggles, feelings, and fears.  The story uses a lot of phrases in Spanish with an English translation immediately following (I found that since the phrases were long, the translations seemed to interrupt the flow of the story). The illustrations by Raúl Colón are simply beautiful, with a warmth of color that immediately brought me back to the Caribbean coast.  This book would also be a great mentor text to introduce memoirs. 

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