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  • Writer's pictureBrandi Prater

The Red Umbrella

Updated: Nov 2, 2022


Gonzalez, C. D. (2011). The Red Umbrella (Reissue). Yearling. ISBN: 9780375854897


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.


Most adults probably have a basic understanding of the communist revolution in Cuba. However, this first-person narrative reveals heart-wrenching details of the increasingly rigid government during this time. The story is centered around the immigration experience of thousands of children sent to the United States as a 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.

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 navigates her new reality. The characters are based on the stories of the author’s parents and the dialogue is sprinkled with Spanish, which creates authentic, believable characters. Teens will be able to connect with Lucia’s rebellious moments that are partnered with her desire to be reunited with her parents when presented with forced independence.

This is another coming-of-age story and deals with dual identity of American immigrants. Gonzalez highlights the struggles of adjusting to a new culture and the story perfectly captures the themes of family, culture, and the history of the Castro revolution. Readers will be drawn into the ramifications of living under a communist government and how it impacts families and communities. This is a YA novel, but can be read and loved by adults too. Given current events, this should be on everyone’s MUST READ list.


This is the story of Lucía, a Cuban girl who, at the age of 14, leaves her hometown of Puerto Mijares and flies to the United States from Havana with her little brother, Frankie, but without their parents. After arriving at a temporary shelter, they are soon transferred to the Baxters' home in Nebraska. Through Lucía's captivating voice, readers travel in time to the year 1961, when members of the Cuban bourgeoisie witnessed the drastic transformation of their society into a communist system

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2010)


· ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2011

· Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2011

· ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book

· Top Ten Indie Next List Pick

· Latina Magazine Book of the Year

· Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year

· Bank Street Child Study Children’s Book Award, Finalist


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