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In an engrossing historical novel, the Newbery Medal-winning author of Bridge to Terabithia follows a young Cuban teenager as she volunteers for Fidel Castro’s national literacy campaign and travels into the impoverished countryside to teach others how to read.
When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come? Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen’s coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author’s note and a timeline of Cuban history.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||10 - 14 Years|
About the Author
Katherine Paterson is a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Her international fame rests not only on her widely acclaimed novels but also on her efforts to promote literacy in the United States and abroad. A two-time winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, she has also received numerous other accolades, including the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, as well as the Vermont Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.With her late husband, John Paterson, she co-authored The Flint Heart, a wryly retold fantasy illustrated by John Rocco and published by Candlewick Press. In 2000, Katherine Paterson was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. She lives in Barre, Vermont.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First of all, thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy in exchange for an honest review! 3.5 stars (rounded up). My Brigadista Year is a charming story about a piece of history I had never heard about: The campaign against illiteracy lead by Fidel Castro. I really enjoyed learning about this part of history, and as someone who has been teaching literacy for about a year now I deeply appreciated the touching depiction about how Lora taught reading but learned life. The form of the book is actually the part I found less engaging. In the very end, it's implied that we are actually reading Lora's diary (or, at least, that she is drawing very heavily from it?), which explains why so much of the story is told to us instead of shown. I tend to prefer my stories very close to the protagonist and very active, so I found this distance between us and the narrator a bit uninteresting. However, Katherine Paterson captures the voice of her protagonist very well--it really did feel like reading someone's recollections, and looking back at the book as a whole I can see how that form helped the story (after all, we have one whole year contained in a relatively short book!). I think because the story landed somewhere between diary and normal first person past-tense, I ended up feeling a bit muddled and confused. But this whole paragraph is probably something only an adult reading would notice or possible be bothered by. I'd definitely recommend this to children curious about adventures, teaching, and rural areas of the world.
My Brigadista Year is a coming of age story in which readers can really see how much Lora matures between April and December 1961. As Lora confronts various problems and difficulties, she learns to figure out the best way to solve them. The story is told from Lora's perspective, in the first person, and although I feel like she is a very flat character, she does a good job of narrating what she is going through. In fact, none of the characters really stood out for me, nor did I feel they were very memorable. What probably will stick with me the most is the information Paterson included about the literacy program. Interestingly, Paterson really seems to have taken pains to keep My Brigadista Year relatively free of partisan politics. She neither promotes Castro's Cuba, only mentioning communism once throughout the novel, nor does she presents the United States as a better alternative. Paterson also touches on social attitudes based on skin color. Lora says her mother kept her out of the sun so her skin doesn't get a dark tan, something that Lora resents. Yet, she is quite taken with Marissa, one of her roommates at Varadero, thinking what a beautiful girl she is with her light tan skin, clearly indicating that light skin is more valued than darker skin. Later, in the country, this is reinforced when her friend Maria falls for a very dark skinned boy, but is devastated when her family forbids her to have anything to do with him. None of this is followed through, however, just there for readers to draw their own conclusions. My Brigadista Year is a very interesting though rather at times a didactic work of historical fiction based in real events. And although Cuba's past is not a history most young Americans are familiar with, this book will only give them cursory information about Cuba in the early 1960s. It is up to the reader to explore Cuba's history further. By the way, the literacy program was one of Cuba's most successful campaigns after Castro took over, bringing the literacy rate there down from approximately 23% to 4%. Be sure to read the Author's Note for background information on the brigadista program and Paterson's reasons for writing this novel. There is a helpful map at the front of the novel, and a very useful timeline of Cuban history at the back of it.