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My Brigadista Year
by Katherine Paterson


Overview - 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.  Read more...

 
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More About My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
 
 
 
Overview
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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780763695088
  • ISBN-10: 0763695084
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press (MA)
  • Publish Date: October 2017
  • Page Count: 160
  • Reading Level: Ages 10-14
  • Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.85 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Juvenile Fiction > Historical - General
Books > Juvenile Fiction > School & Education
Books > Juvenile Fiction > Biographical - Latin America

 
BookPage Reviews

Living, working and learning

A new novel from Katherine Paterson about a fascinating, little-known chapter in Cuban history is reason to celebrate. Paterson—a Library of Congress “Living Legend” and two-time winner of both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award—doesn’t disappoint with her first novel since her husband’s death in 2013.

It’s 1961, and 13-year-old Lora lives with her family in an apartment in Havana. Upon hearing about Fidel Castro’s campaign to make the nation literate in one year, Lora ignores her parents’ concerns and joins an army of young volunteer teachers (more than 250,000) heading into the remote countryside. There Lora and the other “brigadistas” live and work alongside poor families in primitive conditions. Lora gains self-confidence as she learns to love several families, experiencing the challenges and rewards of teaching both children and adults, all while facing grave danger.

Paterson seamlessly brings this tale to life, skillfully weaving in just enough historical detail to give curious readers a sense of the complex historical factors at play (Cubans’ delight and the United States’ displeasure at the fall of Baptista’s corrupt regime), with a helpful timeline of Cuban history. Castro’s bold campaign worked, making Cuba the first illiteracy-free country in the Western Hemisphere.

“We did it, we did it, we did it!” Lora and the brigadistas sing upon their triumphant return to Havana. Lora notes: “We were like an army of sharpened pencils marching into the center of the capital.”

Lora’s brigadista year transformed her life forever, as it did for many actual participants (one of whom is Paterson’s friend). In a wonderful epilogue written years later, after Lora becomes a doctor, she notes: “My country is not perfect, but, then, is yours? . . . No, we are not perfect, but we do have a literate, educated population. We do have doctors.” She adds that many doctors and nurses are heading to West Africa to care for Ebola victims.

As always, Paterson eloquently delivers a fascinating slice of history, then gives her readers important points to ponder, making My Brigadista Year a gloriously timeless story.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews