Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Historical fiction
What did you like about the book? Paperback edition of Engle’s 2009 historical novel about Jewish refugees in Cuba at the beginning of World War II. Full of anguish about leaving his parents behind in Germany, 14 yr old Daniel tries to find peace in the strange tropical country. Befriended by 13 yr old Paloma and the old man David, a refugee of the pogroms in Russia, Daniel finds music and friendship, but is always haunted by the question of his parents’ fate. Told in alternating voices, the story paints a picture of the time, the place and the characters’ complex emotions with Engle’s signature spare, evocative text. I love how she manages to do so much with such elegant economy. Daniel’s story is haunting, and when the story ended I wished I could follow the characters into the next step of their lives. And, once again, Engle helps to flesh out a moment in Cuba’s history, about which so little is taught in our schools.
To whom would you recommend this book? Suggest this to fans of Engle’s work, and to those who like historical fiction. It should also appeal to reluctant readers.
Who should buy this book? Middle schools, high schools, public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Teen fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, especially if you’re a fan of the author.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: December 29, 2017