Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ole'! All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle

We have a gift and we have a cake.

And today we're driving all the way to Havana to see my new baby cousin on his zero-year birthday.

That's the plan, anyway. The thing is, it's a long way to Havana, and the family's old Chevy, nicknamed "Cara-Cara," is what euphemistically might be called unpredictable.

Some of these elegant old cars purr like kittens.

But ours is so tired that she just chatters like a chicken--Cara cara, cluck, cluck cluck!

Papa's repair box gets a full workout as he tries to get Cara Cara patched up with "wire, tape, and mixed-up scraps" for the journey, and after several tries, she finally kicks off, not with a roar, but a rumble. The whole family piles in, and the narrow way winds along the coast road, beside the sea walls in the sun, and Cara Cara bumps along merrily until the kids begin to see more and more old cars on the road, painted in bright colors of red, and pink and purple.

Some with fins like a shark!

And soon they are in the city of Havana. Drying laundry floats like flags from the balconies and people are everywhere, and soon Papa steers Cara Cara into a parking space where a party is about to get underway.

They have a gift and they have a cake, and there's a new baby cousin to welcome into the world!

Margarita Engle's All the Way to Havana (Henry Holt, 2017) portrays a picturesque tale of a possibly perilous trip in their beloved old blue Chevy, but all's well that ends with a celebration at Abuela's house. It's an unusual story of a different place, but a visit with cousins ready to play all day is the same everywhere, and a good time is had by all. Mike Curato's charming paintings portray the scene in old Havana, with the colorful old cars almost becoming characters in the story with a warm palette that reflects the joys of family life. "A vibrant snapshot of modern Cuba, full of rich, sensory detail," says Kirkus.

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