I had the pleasure of visiting Havana earlier this year with my husband and riding in a vintage automobile like the one featured in today’s Perfect Picture Book. Since then, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its Book Birthday. Thankfully, that day arrived last week, and today’s Perfect Picture Book zoomed into my mailbox a few days ago. My husband, who barely notices the piles of books “decorating” my workspaces, oohed and aahhed at this one. I know you will, too!
Title: All the Way to Havana
Written By: Margarita Engle
Illustrated By: Mike Curato
Publisher/date: Godwin Books (Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan Publishing Group)/August 2017
Suitable for Ages: 4-8 (and older)
Themes/Topics: Cuba; family; vintage automobiles; journey; resourcefulness
We have a gift, and we have a cake, and today we’re going to drive all the way to the big city to see my new baby cousin on his zero-year birthday!
Some of this island’s old cars purr like kittens, but ours is so tired that she just chatters like a busy chicken – cara cara, cara cara, cluck, cluck, cluck…
A boy and his family drive from the Cuban countryside to the big city of Havana in their vintage automobile to welcome a new baby to the family.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about Cuba;
- View the book trailer here;
- View an interview with Mike Curato on All the Wonders;
- Color a car, like Cara Cara, the classic car of All the Way to Havana.
Why I Like this Book:
All the Way to Havana is a beautifully written and illustrated book that brought back wonderful memories of the few days I spent in Havana, Cuba this past spring. Its simple tale of a boy helping his father fix an old car to carry them to visit a new family member paired with the lovely old cars in the picturesque city will appeal to kids and car lovers of all ages, I think. And the messages of family togetherness and caring for family treasures, like the old car, will resonate with young and old, too.
In a blog post, Curato stated that he loved drawing cars as a young child and still enjoys it today. That love shines through in All the Way to Havana, from the cover, to the end papers filled with many colorful makes and models, to the 1950s color palette, and even to a surprise if you “lift the hood” by peeling back the jacket cover.
In that same blog post, Curato wrote:
Margarita said this book is about peace, about bringing two neighbors together: the Cubans in the book, and the Americans reading it. Neighbors should be friends. While some of this book may seem very foreign to some, I hope that they can also see the universal themes of family and the roads we take, some bumpy and others smooth. If one neighbor can see the road the other is traveling on and discover a familiar feeling, then maybe that is enough for me.
A Note about Craft:
The opening lines of All the Way to Havana are among the best I’ve read as they set the scene and highlight the issues of the story. There is a gift and a cake, so the reader is on alert that there’s a party, without mention of that term. We learn that the narrator is driving “all the way” to the big city – ie, a long distance, to celebrate a “zero-year birthday”. What a lovely way to herald a birth! Reading further, we meet Cara Cara, a character in herself, and learn that she doesn’t purr like a kitten, but clucks like a chicken. What wonderful images these words evoke! And these images will be easily recognized by children and evoke the rural setting of the story’s beginning. What a wonderful way to hook readers in the first lines!
All the Way to Havana garnered four starred reviews and considerable attention in the press. Justifiably so!
Visit Mike Curato’s website here and Margarita Engle’s site here, and read an interview with both in Publisher’s Weekly .
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!