90 Miles to Havana

90 Miles to Havana

3.8 18
by Enrique Flores-Galbis

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90 Miles to Havana is a 2011 Pura Belpré Honor Book for Narrative and a 2011 Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year.

When Julian's parents make the heartbreaking decision to send him and his two brothers away from Cuba to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation, the boys are thrust into a new world where bullies run rampant and it's not always clear


90 Miles to Havana is a 2011 Pura Belpré Honor Book for Narrative and a 2011 Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year.

When Julian's parents make the heartbreaking decision to send him and his two brothers away from Cuba to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation, the boys are thrust into a new world where bullies run rampant and it's not always clear how best to protect themselves.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Flores-Galbis ably portrays the harsh realities these young Cuban immigrants faced: little hope of reunification with family members, dwindling resources, and insufficient government support, while also conveying their resilience in the face of emotional upheaval.” —Publishers Weekly

“Inspired by Flores-Galbis' experiences as a Pedro Pan refugee, the fast-moving story should easily hook both historical-fiction and adventure readers.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“It's hard to imagine any child putting this book down.” —School Library Journal

“It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds.” —Kirkus Reviews

“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. . . . 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.” —Booklist

Publishers Weekly
In this eye-opening historical novel that takes place after the Cuban revolution in the 1960s, three brothers are sent to Florida by their parents (through Operation Pedro Pan) where they must adapt to an uncertain and, at times, unfriendly new home. The main character, Julian, and his two older brothers find themselves in a rundown children's camp, where they are forced to endure the taunts and maltreatment of the belligerent, unchallenged bully, Caballo. Flores-Galbis ably portrays the harsh realities these young Cuban immigrants faced: little hope of reunification with family members, dwindling resources, and insufficient government support, while also conveying their resilience in the face of emotional upheaval. Along with Julian, readers will learn about the complicated social and political climate of his home country, and as he plans a revolt against Caballo's abuses, Flores-Galbis alludes to similarities between the camp's dictator and those in power in Cuba. Julian further asserts his ingenuity and dogged determination by helping a fellow Cuban sail back to their native land to rescue 15 other refugees, proving himself a capable and worthy protagonist. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
The 1961 evacuation of children from Cuba to the United States in Operation Pedro Pan forms the historical context for this first-person, present-tense narrative. The book opens with the ordinary bustle of a family fishing excursion north of Havana on the edge of the Gulf Stream. Young Julian's ineptness in this situation sets the stage for his loss, foreshadowing the far greater losses to come, as well as the far greater challenges he will need to face. It's the last time that he and his brothers will experience anything resembling normalcy in their lives. Through Julian's journey to Miami and beyond, Flores-Galbis not only draws on his own experiences as a child refugee but also paints the landscapes of Julian's experience with accomplished ease. Green almonds in Cuba, a drawing book, the camp in Miami, the twists and bends of a rigged tomato-picker's conveyor belt, and the swift escalation of a schoolyard fight—each of these images is vivid on the page. Whether it's the threat of separation hanging over the brothers, the machinations of the camp bully Caballo, or the looming shadows of con men or police, Flores-Galbis finds ways to keep the pace tense and the narrative gripping. Through the use of a credible yet wide-ranging first person voice, the novel achieves moments of staggering disappointment and surprising tenderness. Here is a realistic yet loving portrayal of a people, period, and context that remain largely overlooked in American books for young readers. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
VOYA - Robert Johnston
In Cuba during the age of revolution, ten-year-old Julian does not really understand all of the events going on around him, but he knows that things are changing. Julian's mother makes temporary arrangements for her three sons to leave for Florida immediately as part of Operation Peter Pan. Julian and his older brothers manage for themselves in the camp where Cuban children wait for temporary homes, but when his brothers are sent to a similar facility in Denver, Colorado, Julian has to survive the harsh realities of America on his own. He takes up with a wandering Cuban and eventually helps sail a boat to Cuba and smuggle people out of the country. The story is simple, as are the characters and the language. Flores-Galbis draws from his own experience to paint an accurate picture of how a ten-year-old would feel in such trying situations. The entire novel is easily accessible and highly readable, building to a heart-pounding if somewhat truncated climax. Lacking any objectionably content, 90 Miles to Havana is a well-written story inspired by true events. While the subject matter is likely for a niche audience, the book is appropriate for classroom use and should prove popular among those teens who take the time to pick it up. Reviewer: Robert Johnston
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

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

90 Miles to Havana

By Flores-Galbis, Enrique

Roaring Brook Press

Copyright © 2010 Flores-Galbis, Enrique
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781596431683

BIG FISH We’re .ishing at the edge of the Gulf Stream two miles north of Havana. From this far out, the city looks like it’s about to be swallowed by the waves.
"Havana is sinking,” I say to Bebo, standing behind the wheel.
"I guess Columbus was right. The earth is round,” Bebo says without a hint of a smile on his face. He hands me a nautical chart of the north coast of Cuba.
"Check the compass, and the chart—tell me exactly where we are. ”
I run my .inger across a dark gray band marking the Gulf Stream then up to the last little island in a chain of islands hooking south from the tip of Florida.
"Key West is eighty-.ive miles north-northeast of us,” I say, checking the big brass compass. "Havana is .ive miles due south. ”
"You’re getting the hang of it,” Bebo says. When my father yawns, Bebo nods toward the stern of the boat. "I think he’s had enough for the day.”
Papi’s been sitting in the .ighting chair almost the whole day waiting for a bite, but he hasn’t gotten as much as a nibble. He’s not too happy about the possibility that we might be going home empty-handed. My father thinks that if we catch a big .ish on December 31st we’ll have good luck every day of the coming year.
My two brothers and I always go .ishing with him on that day. We usually have a few big ones to show my mother and the Garcias, our next-door neighbors when they meet us at the dock. After the .ish are cleaned and put away, we eat dinner and celebrate New Year’s eve on the boat, with the carnival music and revelers playing and dancing on the streets above us.
Papi stretches, then yawns even louder. Bebo whis­pers, "Hurry, he’s going to get up.”
I’m standing next to Papi smiling, when he starts to unclip the rod from the chair. The .ighting chair is made out of steel and wood, swivels and tilts just like the ones at the barbershop, but it has no cushions. It does have straps and the hardware to clip the rod to the chair so you don’t get pulled into the water when you’re fiighting a big fiish.
"Of all the years to go home empty-handed,” he says, looking over my head at the horizon behind me.
"Papi, can I take a turn on the chair?” I ask and look around for my brothers. I can hear Gordo and Alquilino, the oldest, buzzing around our next-door neighbor Angelita, too busy to notice that Papi has gotten up.
"I’m a lot bigger than I was last year,” I add, squaring my shoulders and standing up as straight as I can.
"I don’t know, Julian. The .ish out here are huge,” he says. "A .lick of their tail and they’ll pull you in!”
"Yeah, but I’m stronger now,” I say. "I know what to do, Bebo explained the  whole thing to me.”
"Bebo explained the whole thing to you?” he asks as the ends of his mustache start to rise.
"From beginning to end,” I say. "And you know how good Bebo is at explaining things.”
Papi looks at me, sizing me up as if he’s never seen me before. "So, does Bebo think you can handle a big .ish?”
"I know exactly what to do!” I say with as much con.i­dence as I can muster.
"OK, Julian, I guess I owe you one for this morning,” he says and squints at the setting sun. "It’s getting late but I guess we have time for one more pass.”
I jump into the chair as fast as I can, before my brothers can claim it, or Papi can change his mind again.
He changed his mind this morning and let Gordo steer the boat out of the harbor instead of me. I was already waiting at the wheel when I saw Gordo coming.
"Papi, you said last night that I could take her out,” I yelled at him, then gripped the wheel real tight.
"It’s late, Julian. Next time,” he said as Gordo started to wedge himself in between the wheel and me.
"What if there is no next time?” I grunted, then pushed back. Papi stopped and stared at me. He looked angry.
"I heard you talking to Mr. Garcia on the phone this morning,” I blurted out. "You said everything is changing and this could be our last fishing trip.”
Papi kept looking at me. "Not yet, Julian,” he said, sounding more sad than angry, then Gordo started push­ing really hard.
I could have hung on longer, but I could tell by the sad-mad tone of my father’s voice, that it was hopeless. Besides, Gordo is bigger and stronger than I am, and he always has to win. "This is your big chance,” my father says as he helps me .it the end of the rod into the metal cup in between my knees. He clips the rod to the brass .ittings on the arm of the chair. "There. Now if a big fish wants to pull you in, it’ll have to take the chair, too,” he says as he double-checks the clips.
I grip the rod tight and set my feet. "I’m ready,” I say confiidently.
My father smiles at me. "Good. You know the rule, right?”  Excerpted from 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores- Galbis.
Copyright © 2010 by Enrique Flores- Galbis.
Published in August 2010 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Excerpted from 90 Miles to Havana by Flores-Galbis, Enrique Copyright © 2010 by Flores-Galbis, Enrique. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Enrique Flores-Galbis, at age nine, was one of 14,000 children who left Cuba in 1961, without their parents, in a mass exodus called "Operation Pedro Pan." He and his two older brothers spent months in a refugee camp in southern Florida; this historical novel is inspired by that experience. The author of Raining Sardines, Enrique lives in Forest Hills, New York, with his family.

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90 Miles to Havana 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a really good book that had a great begining through end with a lot of emotions it was great!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great There is sadness a lot though It tells about a time when a lot of cuban people escape frim the dictator to start a new life in america
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book.It is an awesome book to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a hesrt warming story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was about a kid named julian and his brothers who have to survive in the open world of the USA.its about the operation pedro pan. It was very interesring and discriptive i loved it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't read this book on my nook.I bought it at a book fair.I thought it would be the worst book ever.I was totally wrong.When I was finished reading it I was touched by the book.If you are like me you would bye the book to try somthing new.If not shame on you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book should not be considered historical fiction. While the story might be engaging and exciting, it does not accurately portray the care of the unaccompanied Cuban children in Miami. The author has taken a little bit of history and has woven a tale that is light on history and long on fiction.  
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My sis said this boring so far so i dont want to read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to read this book for school but i am excited i hope its good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It must be good its a sunshine state