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
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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