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90 Miles to Havana Hardcover – August 3, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-7–Based on Flores-Galbis's experiences, this novel is deeply affecting. In 1961, Julian and his two brothers leave Cuba with 14,000 other children, in what is known as “Operation Pedro Pan.” History comes alive through the author's dazzling use of visual imagery and humor, which ranges from light to dark. This book is sophisticated, but can be read on many levels. Most children will be able to relate to the terror and excitement that Julian feels when he is separated from his brothers and all alone in an orphanage in Miami. The writing is poetic, yet clear as glass, and the gorgeous sentences do not slow down the briskly paced plot. Julian emerges as a more endearing, likable character with every page, and readers will be fully absorbed in his journey. The only minor disappointment is toward the end, when the narrator's heroism in helping strangers distracts readers from the more meaningful, long-awaited reunion with his family. Reluctant readers might need some help in early chapters, but once Julian's adventure begins in earnest, it's hard to imagine any child putting this book down.Jess deCourcy Hinds, Bard High School Early College Queens, Long Island City, NY
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Drawing on his own experience as a child refugee from Cuba, Flores-Galbis offers a gripping historical novel about children who were evacuated from Cuba to the U.S. during Operation Pedro Pan in 1961. Julian, a young Cuban boy, experiences the violent revolution and watches mobs throw out his family’s furniture and move into their home. For his safety, his parents send him to a refugee camp in Miami, but life there is no sweet haven. He tries to avoid the powerful camp bullies (“the big eat the small”) while he waits in anguish for his parents, and in a wrenching parting, his two older brothers are sent away to a harsh orphanage in Denver. The messages get heavy at times about the meaning of democracy, at odds with the political and the camp power games. But this is a seldom-told refugee story that will move readers with the first-person, present-tense rescue narrative, filled with betrayal, kindness, and waiting for what may never come. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman

Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: ALA: Youth Media Award Winners 2011
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596431687
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431683
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,113,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Yolanda C. Ganong on October 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was thoroughly engaged by the characters and the story in 90 Miles to Havana. This is a coming of age story of a young boy and a special group of Cuban children who had to re-invent themselves in a hurry when circumstances pushed them across a bridge between two very different worlds. The author manages to entertain as he gives a personal account of a painful historical time that is either not well-known or misunderstood: the exile of over 14,000 unaccompanied minors at the beginning of Castro's dictatorship in Cuba. I particularly liked how Flores-Galbis manages to convey how the main character is quickly transformed from child to man by forces from within and outside, but without allowing his childhood to be completely taken away from him. This author is an excellent portrait artist in real life and his supporting characters are as finely fleshed out as his paintings. I particularly appreciated the clever girls who were also caring, brave and important in their own right. This is a story that can be enjoyed by young readers as well as by adults who might be inspired to remember the events that made us grow up.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
90 Miles To Havana is a very realistic and historically accurate picture of the sadness, loneliness, difficulties, optimism and determination of the Cuban children sent away alone by their parents to protect them from Castro's military schools. They ended up in dismal refugee camps in Florida with hundreds of other parent-less refugee children. The author, Enrique Flores-Galbis, based the story of young refugee Julian, on his own experiences as a Cuban refugee. Middle and upper elementary grade readers will: cheer for the camp revolutionaries Julian, Angelita, Gustavo and Marta; worry about impulsive, stubborn Aquilino and Gordo; and learn about persevering from the wonderful role model, Tomas. I was surprised and pleased when a few of my reluctant readers chose 90 Miles to Havana, an historical novel, over the more predictable suggestions of the wonderful Multnomah County Library School Corps young adult librarian. I was even more please when they all praised the book, so I decided I'd better read it, too. I loved it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dear All,
It is with a great sense of pride, admiration, awe and (I have to admit) a little jealousy that I call your attention to my brother Enrique's second book, "90 Miles to Havana." "Raining Sardines," his first book, published in 2007, earned a prestigious "America's Award," for young adult fiction based in Latin America.

"90 Miles to Havana," is Enrique's autobiographical account of his and his two older brother's experiences after being sent to a refugee camp in the US by our parents to escape Castro's totalitarian dictatorship.

In "90 Miles to Havana," Enrique does a masterful job of capturing the essence of what the three brothers went through and uses his vivid imagination and descriptive talent to make the characters come alive and add dimension to the events. His characterization of my brother, Fernando, ("Gordo") and I, ("Alquilino") and our relationship, is right on the money.

Speaking as an older brother who, according to the Laws of Birth Order, was responsible for "tormenting" my younger siblings, I can proudly claim that in some small way I helped shape their personality. Although Enrique is a prize winning, and highly regarded portrait painter, and engaging lecturer in the fine arts, the publication of "90 Miles to Havana" and "Raining Sardines," confirmed what I have known for many years, he is, above all, a spellbinding storyteller.

Anyway, enough fawning put down whatever Stieg Larsson novel you may be reading at the moment and pick up "90 Miles to Havana". You'll be glad you did. Right from the very first page you'll be enthralled, swept into a story of political upheaval, sibling rivalry, good vs.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a Cuban exile who has lived in Miami for many years. I was lucky enough to be able to come to the States with my mother at the age of nine and three younger siblings, after my father left via a clandestine route because he opposed the revolution. Looking back, I can only imagine the harrowing ordeal my mother went through hoping she would not be stopped before we were all able to get away safely. Nonetheless, at the time I felt we were living an adventure and I personally felt totally protected at my young mother's side. After all these years I thought no one could tell me anything I did not know about the Cuban revolution...

Reading Enrique's novel on this the 50th anniversary of Pedro Pan brought a knot to my throat when I saw an example of what many children who were not so lucky as I, had to undergo to be able to live something we take for granted, a normal life in freedom. The author is a master story-teller who keeps you on the edge of your seat, unable to put the book down from cover-to-cover. He has undoubtedly and successfully transferred his portrait painting experience from the plastic arts to the literary arena. He clearly delineates the personalities of all the characters until you feel you know them. You empathize with Julian growing up turbo-speed out of necessity, honing his artistic sensibilities and noble personality without caving-in under pressure. Another trait that is very much part of the Cuban personality is the ingenuity shown by all of the characters. Necessity is the mother of invention.
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