In Sesame Street star and picture-book author Manzano’s (A Box Full of Kittens) first novel, set in 1969 Spanish Harlem, 14-year-old Evelyn Serrano finds a new appreciation for her family and pride in her Puerto Rican heritage amid neighborhood protests. Evelyn is frustrated with her struggling parents, who cling to the old ways of Puerto Rico, and sick of the “El Barrio fart smell of garbage” that makes the summer heat hard to bear. Things hit a fever pitch when Evelyn’s free-spirited abuela arrives to live with them, clashing with everyone. It’s Abuela who tells Evelyn about the 1937 Nationalist uprising in Puerto Rico and how it’s similar to the Young Lords who are burning garbage and occupying a local church to focus attention on the barrio. The knowledge helps bring three generations of women closer as they unite in a common cause. Manzano shines light on a little-known moment in history through the eyes of a realistically mercurial protagonist who can be both petulant and sympathetic. Evelyn’s tale fascinates, ending on a hopeful note. Ages 10–14. Agent: Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. (Sept.)
VOYA - Adrienne Amborski
Set in Spanish Harlem, 1969, the plight of Puerto Ricans living in America and their fight for civil rights is told through the voice of Evelyn Serrano, a fourteen-year-old Puerto Rican teen. Struggling with her identity and angst-filled relationship with her mother, Evelyn has decided to get her own job and not work in her parent's store. Evelyn states from the beginning of the novel her desire to change her name from Mari?a to Evelyn to distinguish herself from all of the other Mari?as in the neighborhood. Enter Evelyn's abuela, a flamboyant woman dedicated to social causes, and Evelyn begins to question her loyalties to family and culture. With her abuela's arrival, a long-buried secret resurfaces, causing strain in Evelyn's family. Adding to the tension is the arrival of the Young Lords, a social reform group, who occupy the First Spanish Methodist Church for eleven days. Their presence and activism begins Evelyn's journey of social awareness. This fictionalized debut based on real events is well crafted by actress and television writer, Sonia Manzano. Manzano will be fondly remembered by many adult readers as Maria on Sesame Street during the 1970s. Drawing on experiences of her own and those of relatives living in Spanish Harlem during the 1960s and 1970s, the author creates a vivid portrayal of an American experience not known to many. An author's note and list of works for further reading enhance the story. Although this novel will not have a broad appeal to teen readers, it is a story that, with promotion or used in a classroom setting, would be a worthy book about a segment of the civil rights movement often overlooked in history. Reviewer: Adrienne Amborski
VOYA - Gwen Amborski
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano is full of truths about Puerto Rican culture. Sonia Manzano does an excellent job of telling real events in history through a down-to-earth, fictional character. Even if readers do not share the same Puerto Rican background as the main character, Evelyn, they will relate to the common teenage struggles with family. Manzano's writing is very professional, but at the same time, humorous. While this book is a slow read in some areas, it is worthwhile. 3Q, 2P. Reviewer: Gwen Amborski, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature - Heidi Quist
Upon her 14th birthday, Rosa Maria Evelyn del Carmen Serrano decides too many Rosas, Marias, and Carmens inhabit her Puerto Rican Harlem neighborhood. Rosa becomes Evelyn, but this proves only a small change in her life. Within a few months, her long-lost transitory grandmother moves into her home, taking over her bedroom. Then, a group of young vigilantes, the Young Lords, move into the neighborhood, first collecting months of uncollected garbage and burning it in the street, then seeking to provide services for the homeless and needy through a local church. When the pastor and church officials refuse them, they host a non-violent takeover of the building. Abuela (grandma)'s timing proves fortuitous as she soon bands together with the Young Lords and provides free classes to the locals on Puerto Rican history. But while Grandma tries to help the young Puerto Ricans in New York to take pride in their heritage, Evelyn's Mami struggles with accepting the change they bring in as well as with letting Evelyn become too attached to her mother who was never a stable presence in her youth. Consequently, Evelyn faces more struggles with her identity. As the police come to resolve the church take-over, however, a flying bottle brings ironic clarity to Evelyn's view of the major women in her life, as well as of her adopted Papi and her Puerto Rican heritage. Manzano interweaves the Spanish language as well as some family-invented language adding authenticity to this novella, which is largely based on many real situations and events of 1970s New York Harlem. Reviewer: Heidi Quist
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Manzano is, of course, best known for her role as Maria on Sesame Street. In this book, she has brought to life an incident from 1969, when a group of young Nationalist Puerto Ricans, known as the Young Lords, occupied the First Spanish Methodist Church, after the clergy turned down their requests to use the building during the week as a place for breakfast and other social services for the poor. The story is related in the voice of Evelyn Serrano, a young teen who realizes that she wants to find ways to create social change. The girl's social consciousness comes alive in tandem with her grandmother's arrival. Her abuela takes over Evelyn's room, forcing her to occupy the couch. Even with this to grapple with, along with the contentious relationship between her grandmother and mother, Evelyn eventually forges a relationship with the older woman, who was a Nationalist in Puerto Rico. She also discovers more about her grandfather, who was on the other side of the political debate, and this makes her all the more anxious to be a part of history. Manzano makes the Puerto Rican barrio come alive, and the atmosphere she creates reminded me a great deal of West Side Story. Of course, she manages to insert a quick reference to Sesame Street itself, which also first aired in 1969.
Set in 1969, Manzano's first novel offers a realistically mercurial protagonist struggling with her identity in Spanish Harlem. Fourteen-year-old Rosa María Evelyn del Carmen Serrano is frustrated with life in El Barrio. Tired of working for her mother and stepfather in their bodega, she takes a job at a five-and-dime and hopes to trudge through the rest of the summer. Everything changes when her abuela arrives, taking over Evelyn's bedroom and bearing secrets of the family's involvement in Puerto Rico's tumultuous history. When a group called the Young Lords begins working to bring positive changes to the neighborhood, some residents are resistant, including Evelyn's mother. Led by her grandmother's example, Evelyn begins to take an interest in the efforts of the activist group. As the months pass, the three generations of women begin to see one another's perspectives, and Evelyn realizes the importance of her Puerto Rican heritage. Like most real-world teens, she changes subtly, rather than through one earth-shattering epiphany. The author effectively captures this shifting perception in the dialogue and Evelyn's first-person narration. Secondary characters of surprising dimension round out the plot and add to the novel's cultural authenticity, as do the Spanish and Spanglish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the text so seamlessly that a glossary would be moot. A stunning debut. (author's note, recommended reading) (Historical novel. 12 & up)
From the Publisher
PRAISE & REVIEWS
* "This wry, moving debut novel does a great job of blending the personal and the political. . . while the family drama and revelations continue right up to the end."--BOOKLIST, starred review
* "Characters of surprising dimension round out the plot and add to the novel's cultural authenticity. . . A stunning debut."--KIRKUS, starred review
"This novel is meant to be savored in delicious bites. I loved its snap and down-home-EL BARRIO-in-your-face-tell-it-like-it-is tone."--Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE
"THE REVOLUTION OF EVELYN SERRANO should be placed on proud display with the literature that enriches our multicultural America. History will come alive for young readers who will identify with how a great historic moment can affect one girl and her family."--Julia Alvarez, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of BEFORE WE WERE FREE and HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS
"I love this book! It's smart, real, painfully funny, and filled with the wisdom of a writer who can get to the hearts and souls of her readers. Sonia Manzano, standing ovation! (Encore, please!)"--John Leguizamo, Emmy Award winning actor-comedian.
"An important story about activism, acceptance, and love. Sonia Manzano vividly portrays a neighborhood in turmoil, with embraceable characters who change history."--Pam Muñoz Ryan, Pura Belpre Award-winning author of THE DREAMER and ESPERANZA RISING
Children's Literature - Ashley Folsom
Tension arises when Evelyn Serrano begins rebelling against her Hispanic culture in her Puerto Rican neighborhood, El Barrio, in New York in 1969. Fourteen-year-old Evelyn first displays her rebellion by changing her name from Rosa to Evelyn to be less stereotypical. Family tension heightens when her radical Abuela moves in with Evelyn and her Mami and Papo. Shortly afterward, an activist group called the Young Lords begins protesting within the community to support equal treatment for Latinos in New York. Abuela supports this group, while Evelyn’s Mami and Papo are reluctant, but Evelyn becomes involved. She experiences many challenges, including a hospital visit, but she grows by learning about her cultural identity, especially within the context of her family. Manzano effectively presents the material by using short chapters packed with details that help the reader understand the plot. The use of first person narration creates a character that is easy for younger readers to comprehend. Manzano moves the plot forward at a fast pace to convey the suddenness of activist activity, which creates an honest tone. Through the developing tense relationships between Evelyn, Mami, and Abuela, readers will understand the effects of different experiences and how these contribute to shaping views. This multicultural novel might enhance the study of many topics in history, such as the Civil Rights Movement. History and language arts may be integrated through having students write about their own culture, reflect on how their culture shapes them, and how their past impacts their perspectives. Reviewer: Ashley Folsom; Ages 10 to 12.