Published by: Atheneum Books
Released on: August 9th, 2017
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Rating: 3 stars
Source: book from publisher in exchange for my honest review
A middle grade novel in verse that tells the story of a Cuban-American boy who visits his family’s village in Cuba for the first time—and meets a sister he didn’t know he had.
Edver isn’t happy about being shipped off to Cuba to visit the father he barely knows. The island is a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh, but travel laws have suddenly changed, and now it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited. Technology in Cuba hasn’t caught up with the times, though, and Edver is expecting a long, boring summer.
He was NOT expecting to meet a sister he didn’t know he had. Luza is a year older and excited to see her little brother, until she realizes what a spoiled American he is. Looking for something—anything—they might have in common, the siblings sneak onto the Internet, despite it being forbidden in Cuba, and make up a fake butterfly. Maybe now their cryptozoologist mother will come to visit. But their message is intercepted by a dangerous poacher, and suddenly much more than their family is at stake. Edver and Luza have to find a way to overcome their differences to save the Cuban jungle that they both have grown to love.
Written in verse, this richly diverse book explores the meaning of family, conversation, and the differences one person can make. Set in Cuba, this book is rich in Cuban-American culture. Engle's mix of verse and rhyming make this book one even the most resultant of readers can enjoy. It's full of emotion, visually stunning, and allows the readers to understand both Edver and Luza's points of views, and their feelings towards to each other. What starts off as a rough first meeting, ends with a touching story of two siblings who learn to trust each other, and over come their differences, in order to save the Cuban jungle they both learn to love.
I really appreciated Engle's exploration of both Edver and Luza's worlds. Their two worlds collide, literally in this book. There's a difference between not just their cultures and the two different countries where their were raised, both were raised in completely opposite circumstances. One in poverty in Cuba, and the other wealthier in the US. They not only learn to work through that barrier, Edver also learns how to cope with the emotions of learning about a sister and family he never knew existed. Engle doesn't shy away from the various emotions that stem from the two siblings first meeting, or their mixed feelings on getting to know each other etc.
There are definitely a lot of themes in this book. I thought Engle did a great job at tackling each of those. Themes from emotional side to all the characters learn to cope with and cover come, to the troubles in conservation and it's many dangers. While this book is marketed for younger middle grade readers, the themes and the heavier emotional themes in the book are more fitting for older readers.