Colón, Edie. Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York! Ill. by Raúl Colón. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011. ISBN 9781442406742.
In this book, the author tells her own story through her main character, Gabriella. Gabriella and her parents leave Cuba for New York shortly after Fidel Castro takes over the country. Gabriella’s grandparents must stay behind in Cuba and join the rest of the family at a later date, but the young girl struggles to understand why and misses her grandparents. Gabriella enrolls in a new school and works to learn the language, do what her teacher asks of her, and make friends. Finally, Gabriella’s grandparents join the family in New York and they are all together in their new home.
Gabriella exhibits the feelings and thoughts of a typical young child who must leave everything she knows to go to a new place and be immersed in a new culture. The adults in the story are not developed much deeper than surface level, but the story does not suffer for it. The reader follows Gabriella’s journey to learn about America and to wait for her grandparents to be reunited with the family, which is finally accomplished near the end of the book. Colón uses comparisons of the two different settings and descriptions of the seasons changing to mark the passage of time as Gabriella waits to see her grandparents again.
This story about adjusting to a new culture is told in simple language and covers a large span of time in its few short pages.
Raúl Colón, the author’s husband, gives a homey feel to the story with his illustrations. His use of multiple lines in a set (which resemble a curved musical staff) give movement and life to the characters and objects on the pages. Colón’s choices in apparel and warm colors for his illustrations provide a sense of nostalgia and his use of line and shadow in the character’s faces really bring out the emotions of the story.
E. Colón’s story touches on the history of Cuba and provides a look at Cuban culture while bringing to the forefront the cross-cultural concept of adapting to new situations.
The illustrations are what made the book for me. I read one review that held several denigrating remarks about the author and her writing ability, but while I believe the writing was the weaker of the two aspects of this book, I felt the story was a nice glimpse into the history of one family who fled Cuba and the resulting impact on their child.
“In his signature, almost pointillist style, Raúl Colón’s earth-toned artwork imbues the story with a comforting texture and warmth, closely depicting the clothing, hair, and décor of the era.” —Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2011
“Raul Colón’s art, rendered in his familiar style, in watercolor, colored pencil, and lithographic pencil, has a sweetness that’s sometimes tinged with anxiety, sometimes with hope.” —Booklist, September 1, 2011
“The true charm here is in the artwork, lushly rendered by Colón’s husband. His signature soft, muted watercolor-and-pencil style befits the nostalgic theme…” — Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2011
“Lush, evocative watercolor and colored-pencil artwork captures the warmth of the child’s family as well as the contrast between the tropical beauty and unrest of her homeland and the wintry New York landscape.” —School Library Journal, September 2011
Read other books about immigration such as:
My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood by Rosemary Wells and Secundino Fernandez, Ill. by Peter Ferguson
All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino
Read other books illustrated by Raúl Colón such as:
- Draw! ISBN 9781442494923
As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom ISBN 9780375833359
Discussion/writing activity topics:
- Have you ever had to move to a place where you didn’t know anyone or where you didn’t know the language? How did that make you feel? What are some things you did to cope?
- Have you ever been away from someone you loved and missed them? What did you do to feel better?
Gabriella helped her teacher pronounce Spanish words in class. Have students identify something they know how to do and have them teach the class or a small group.
Gabriella talks about the sounds and sights outside her window in both Havana and New York. Have students draw a picture of what they see outside their window or record the sounds from their window.
(image from Amazon.com, accessed January 18, 2015, cover art by Raul Colón)