Monday, November 22, 2010

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

I read this title awhile ago and have been really thinking about what I wanted to write about it or whether or not I wanted to post anything at all. I came down on the side of posting really just so that I would have something written down when we meet for our Mock Newbery in a few weeks.

I think part of my problem is that I read this in the midst of the other Mock books and it didn't fare well when I compared it to the other titles. It lacked the conciseness of The Night Fairy, the characterization of One Crazy Summer, and the lyricism and rhythm of Keeper. In short, I didn't find it as polished, nor did I find the writing as distinguished. I will say I enjoyed it and had I read it for another purpose I may have actually enjoyed it more.

One thing I do question is the use of headlines taken from real newspapers. We only get the headline, no excerpt from the article. I wasn't sure what purpose this served or what it lent to the story. I assume the intent was to inform the reader as to what people were saying about Castro and Cuba, but what should the reader get out of a headline that reads, "Castro Denounces U.S., Roars Defiance of OAS." or "Crime to Have Foreign Money in Cuba Now." or "The Red Plot Confirmed." Headlines are created to be dramatic and attention getting, shocking, even (as the one comparing Castro to Hitler was no doubt supposed to be). But they seem to be randomly placed I don't think they added any extra value or historical information. I certainly couldn't see a tie into the ensuing chapter. Honestly, it just seemed to me as though the author had a particular agenda (Castro = bad) and wanted to back it up somehow. I think her story was enough without the headlines.

I enjoyed reading about a program I was not previously aware where Cuban parents had sent their children in the US. It is a part of US history that I was not aware of.


For those who are keeping track, I'm reading this for our Mock Newbery.
Other titles in this series:

Farm by Elisha Cooper
Keeper by Kathy Appelt
The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

Book Source = Library Copy


joanna said...

This is the one Mock Newbery I have yet to finish. I started it after Countdown by Deborah Wiles and I think it was just too much same topic reading for me. (and that I loved Countdown.) I had a hard time with the 1st person pov and her clunky, tell-all narration. I do plan to re-read it soon and give it a more honest, less rushed read. It doesn't seem that it will move up much in my personal Mock standing, but as far as a highlight for 2010, that may still happen.

Patti said...

I'm curious as to what you'll make of those headlines. Are you going to read it soon?

joanna said...

After this weekend. I should be done with Fever Crumb. I took a break to read some of the Mock Caldecott titles.

Laura said...

I'm glad to hear these comments. I read this one a few months ago and nearly put it down 40 pages in because I thought the writing was so weak. It felt like I was being "told" everything instead of shown, and the characterization of the MC (Luci? It's been a while.) was awfully shallow. It was all, "I love lipstick!" (Not that *she* was shallow, though she was, but it seemed like the description of her ended there, too.)

Anyway, right about the time that I was about to quit, more started happening and I started getting more emotionally invested and ended up really enjoying it. But, I didn't nominate it for our Mock Newbery based on the weakness of the first 40-50 pages.

Interesting about the headlines. I assumed it was just to show what was going on in the bigger world and then didn't think much else about it, but you make a good point with the ones you list. They're not really giving more information...