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The Red Umbrella [Kindle Edition]

Christina Gonzalez
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $6.99
Kindle Price: $3.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro's revolution.


In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.


As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.


Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?


The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–9—Fourteen-year-old Lucía lives an easy middle-class life in 1961 Cuba, thinking only about clothes, boys, and dances. When Communist revolutionaries occupy her town, an escalating witch hunt against capitalists compels her parents to send her and her brother to the U.S. under the care of the Catholic Welfare Bureau (as part of "Operation Pedro Pan," which—the endnotes explain—was the largest-ever exodus of unaccompanied children in the West). Lucía eventually settles with a foster family in Nebraska, where she comes to terms with her duel identity as a Cuban exile and an American teen. She must also piece together a picture of what's happening to her parents and friends at home from interrupted phone calls, censored letters, and newspaper articles. This well-written novel has a thoroughly believable protagonist and well-chosen period details. It should be noted, however, that Gonzalez portrays the single sympathetic Communist character as increasingly brainwashed. Few readers will recognize the polemics driving this convincing story, but as an introduction to the history and politics of the Cuban-exile community, it could generate some excellent classroom discussions.—Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

When Castro comes to power, teenage Lucía wants nothing to do with the revolution; she is more worried about what to wear to the school dance. Then she witnesses the horrifying public hanging of her father’s boss, and her parents send her and her little brother, Frank, to safety in the U.S., where a church places them with a kind foster home in Nebraska. Based on the author’s parents’ story, Gonzalez’s first novel captures the heart-wrenching, personal drama of family separation. At the start of each chapter, a brief newspaper headline gives a glimpse into Cuban politics and history, but the core of Lucía’s first-person narrative is her emotional upheaval as she cares for Frank and tries to fit into her eighth-grade class, where everything is strange and different. The characters, including the loving, imperfect adults, are authentic, and teens will recognize Lucía’s rebellious moments, which sometimes get ugly, as well as her anguish over costly long-distance calls “home” and her hope for reunion with her family. Grades 6-10. --Hazel Rochman

Product Details

  • File Size: 319 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375854894
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4C1Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,064 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History with Heart May 24, 2010
Lucia Alvarez wants what any fourteen year old girl wants--
to spend time talking about boys with her best friend Ivette, to go to the movies and dances, and to avoid babysitting her annoying younger brother Frankie. It's just that her parents are so old-fashioned. Can't they see Lucia is old enough for a little independence?

When soldiers from Castro's Revolution arrive in Lucia's small town, her life becomes more oppressive, not less. Freedoms and friends disappear overnight. Finally her parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send Frankie and Lucia to the U.S. Alone.

The Red Umbrella, set in Cuba during 1961, by debut author Christina Gonzalez brings a culture and its past to life with this story of two children who were part of Operation Pedro Pan. It is, in fact, a personal family story for Ms. Gonzalez as both of her parents were part of the exodus of 14,000 unaccompanied minors who were sent to the U.S. in the early 60's to escape Castro's regime. The story of Lucia and Frankie Alvarez is a part of history that's generally not well known. The Red Umbrella deals with their upheaval with warmth, pathos and sometimes heart-breaking sadness.
-- Reviewed by Michelle Delisle
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By S. Su
14-year-old Lucia Alvarez's life is turned upside down when Fidel Castro takes power in Cuba in 1960. Suddenly her best friend is a propaganda-spewing stranger, soldiers brutally kill her father's business acquaintances, and her parents are being closely watched. Lucia just wants to be an average teenage girl, hanging out with her friends, keeping up with the latest American fashions, and maybe even getting closer to her crush, but that can no longer be.

Then Lucia and her younger brother, Frankie, receive visas to go live with a temporary foster family in Nebraska. The culture shock is great and frightening; can Lucia manage a new language and culture, growing into a young lady in the meantime, when the fate of her parents and her beloved Cuba are so uncertain?

I have never read a novel like Christina Gonzalez's debut, THE RED UMBRELLA. This is a necessary story about an aspect of Cuban American history that has not received enough attention in YA literature--and best of all, it's extremely well written and engaging!

Gonzalez writes convincingly of all her characters. Lucia is partly your average teenager, desiring friendship, love, acceptance, and pretty things. Her parents are a believable blend of loving, strict, and worried, and Frankie is a cute and appropriately occasionally annoying younger brother. The way the story follows Lucia through this difficult time in her life, however, is a miraculous achievement: my heart ached as I read about the difficulties she faced, and I saw a distinct, yet subtle, growth in her as she realizes the extent to which Castro's takeover would affect her life.

The pacing and plot were a little uneven, though, and thus not as fulfilling as it could've been.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book! Couldn't put it down! May 13, 2010
By Piri23
From the moment I started reading The Red Umbrella, I could not put it down! Somehow, Christina Diaz Gonzalez manages to weave intense dramatic scenes with bits of humor (at times, you can't help but laugh and cry simultaneously!). You will be captivated by the author's wonderful descriptions of the characters and beautiful way of making you feel like you instantly know and care about them. "Living through" the revolution through the eyes of the young Lucia truly takes you on a journey from the carefree innocence of childhood to the increasingly complicated life of a young woman who has been forced to deal with more adult situations than any teenager should have to go through. So thankful to the author for bringing this very real part of American and Cuban history to life!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book. June 6, 2010
I do not read fiction.
I read this book because it's about a moment in history of which I was a part of.
I was a "Pedro Pan" child.
I was fortunate enough to have my aunt, uncle and two cousins waiting for me at Miami International Airport the night I arrived from Cuba in 1961. I was seven years old. My mother and twelve year-old sister arrived the next day. We were very lucky to all have been reunited after one day. Many children weren't. Some never saw their parents again.
This easy reading, fictional true to life story taking place after Fidel Castro's revolution in 1959 is very well written. You get to know and love the characters and how the revolution gripped the country and changed their lives, for the worst. Their problems are real, just as they were when my mother was deciding whether she should send me out of Cuba, not knowing if she would see me again and then leaving her home, family and literally her life behind in a span of two days (not knowing if the "underground" plans would change at the last minute).
I have to admit I cried while reading this book because it brought back memories of small events and things I had completely forgotten about (example, my family in Miami waiting for hours or days to get a telephone connection to Cuba) that came back to me. Schoolmates that wore Cuban revolutionary clothes, in the PRIVATE school I attended (CIMA).
At one point I wanted to get one of those outfits. I thought it was "cool". My mother was adamantly opposed to it. I was upset, but now I understand. No different from a child wanting a Hitler Youth outfit in 1940s Germany if the parents opposed the Third Reich.
Beautifully written, this book should be welcomed at any public or private school library.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful historical fiction novel for grades 5 and up
A wonderful historical fiction novel for grades 5 and up! The symbolism of the title will be revealed by the end.
Published 1 month ago by 2Teach
5.0 out of 5 stars ¡al fin!... a real sense of
Finally a real sense of what my parents endured as children and their parents endured at the hands of this coward who hides his own madness and hatred behind a leadership that is... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Claudia D. Fernandez Castillo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it!!!!!!!
Published 1 month ago by casey
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I was so moved by this story. I too am a daughter of an Operacion Pedro Pan mother and the book helped me understand better what my mom went through and the sacrifice my... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gus
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable Coming of Age + Historical Fiction
Fourteen year old Lucia is a lovable, but unreliable, narrator for much of The Red Umbrella. She is seeing the Cuban Revolution of the '60's through the eyes of an entitled young... Read more
Published 2 months ago by PDXbibliophile
5.0 out of 5 stars where you do not have the freedom of selling or buying like we have...
this book even though is short it gives you a little bit of info what has been going on in Cuba for 55 years and still going on. Read more
Published 2 months ago by greatful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great
it was a very well written book that grabs your emotions and changed how you look at life while you read about her story
Published 3 months ago by Bon Que Que III
5.0 out of 5 stars And like many other stories about this horrible time the children ...
Such a heartbreaking story of a family being torn apart. Castro is coming into power in Cuba. And like many other stories about this horrible time the children get sent to out of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Aunt Deb
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
This book was very well written. It is hard to believe that it is a fictional account of the time. The attention to detail is exceptional.
Published 5 months ago by Gisela Segredo
4.0 out of 5 stars A 20th century version of the Orphan Train - sort of
Sweet story of two children whose parents protected them from "the Party line" of Communist Cuban Castro. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Deb Trivitt
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More About the Author

Christina grew up in a small Southern town in the Florida panhandle, but she's always been in touch with her Cuban heritage. She loves having breakfast with pan cubano and Southern style grits-- the best of both worlds! You can learn more about her at

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