Reviews for Under the Royal Palms : A Childhood in Cuba


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 November 1998
Gr. 3^-6. Short vignettes of growing up in a small town in Cuba make up this companion volume to Where the Flame Trees Bloom (1994). Sometimes the commentary about "life" and its miracles and mysteries is intrusive, but, fortunately, there is not too much adult voice-over, and the events are told mainly from the viewpoint of the child, who just glimpses adult secrets or tries to understand her own. The best story is about her bond with a ballet teacher who included Ada in the class even though she was clumsy; the teacher gave her a place and helped her through a lonely time. The attention paid to small daily things as well as the occasional awareness of historical events will encourage readers to look for their own family stories. ((Reviewed November 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 1999
Black-and-white snapshots illustrate this companion to [cf2]Where the Flame Trees Bloom[cf1]. Stories and remembrances--some gentle, some sad or humorous--flesh out the author's childhood in a small Cuban town and demonstrate the importance of family, friends, neighbors, and teachers to a young girl. An epilogue urges readers to recognize the stories around and within themselves. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1998 November #1
Of books comprising nuggets of memory there seems to be no end, and in a companion volume to her Where the Flame Trees Bloom (1994, not reviewed), Ada recounts small stories of growing up in the town of in Camagüey, Cuba. She captures with some feeling the powerful effect of scent on memory: night jasmine, coffee, ylang-ylang, and her grandmother's perfume of lavender and sage. She immortalizes sibling hurts and uncles' gifts, and writes of the childhood mystery of adult conversations partially overheard and partially understood. She is rich in family, attempting with her grandmother the impossible task of counting bats as they fly, and smashing her favorite doll when her dashing uncle dies in a plane crash. She is rich in memories of other adults, too: Madame Marie, a French-Jewish refugee; Gilda, a dance teacher, whose affection carried Ada through an impossible year at school. Some repetition does not detract, and children might be moved by Ada's exhortation to consider their own family stories. (b&w photographs) (Memoir. 9-14) Copyright 1998 Kirkus Reviews

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Library Talk Reviews 1999 May
With her own personal, heartwarming stories of growing-up in Camaguey, Cuba, the author has succeeded in encouraging the reader to see how the day-to-day things are all quite significant. This collection of stories is actually the second book of reminiscences Ada has written. In this book we also meet several of her relatives. Her mysterious Uncle Manolo has dedicated his life to helping lepers, while her cousin Jorge convinces her to go exploring with him but then deserts her and his sister. Ada's father, Modesto, was a high school teacher, and her uncle Medardo, who had a passion for flying airplanes, lost his life in one. Ada also includes a couple of Cuban tales or legends as well as a picture of how the Cuban government affected life on the island. Adding to the poignancy of each short story is the personal b&w photographs that are effective as a result of the crisp, clean layout design. A table of contents at the beginning and epilogue and family album at the end invite young readers to read from cover to cover. This book offers a unique way for them to learn of a country and its people. Highly Recommended. Sheila Acosta, Library Media Specialist, Thomas Jefferson High School, San Antonio, Texas © 1999 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 December #1
In this handsomely designed companion volume to Where the Flame Trees Bloom, Ada once again draws upon her experiences growing up in post-war Cuba. In a short introduction, the author describes her hometown, Camagüey, as a "city of contrasts" diverse religions and education and economic levels ("some had so much and others had very little"). The 10 stories that follow do not focus on these oppositions so much as the unique experiences of young Alma and her extended family. Several memories poignantly expose the disparity between those who have and those who have not, such as "Explorers," in which young Alma and her cousin get lost in a marabú field and are aided and fed by a poverty-stricken family. Others illustrate life lessons (for example, the impossible but gleeful task of counting bats in flight for their nightly feeding taught Alma to appreciate the process of an endeavor, rather than its completion). But the best of these stories simply recreate a poignant or humorous moment from the author's girlhood: Alma sipping from a porrón (a small clay pot) at school, lovingly filled with water by her mother; Alma's pride in her uncle's daring turning to grief when he dies in an airplane crash. Many of the stories stand well alone, but some take a meandering expository path to recount a history or explain a term. These more formal (though often graceful) tangents distance readers from the slices of life. Still, at the core of the collection, there is a heartfelt portrayal of a quickly disappearing culture and a vastly beautiful land. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1998 December
Gr 4-7-This simple and graceful reminiscence of a childhood in Cuba in the 1940s is a companion to Where the Flame Trees Bloom (Atheneum, 1994). Although not wealthy, the author's family lived comfortably with aunts, uncles, and cousins in a large, shared family home in the small town of Camagüey. Here any event beyond the ordinary became the focus of everyone's attention and the fuel for many days of conversation. Each chapter includes an early memory or experience of Ada's: nursing the baby bats that fell onto her porch, the production of simple and inexpensive plaster figures for nativity scenes, etc. The author writes about the contrast of wealth and poverty in her country at that time and of the people who made an impression on her, including a ballet teacher who befriended her during a lonely year in a new school, and an uncle and aunt who worked with lepers. Her observations of people lead to a series of revelations that shaped her life. Black-and-white photographs of the author and her family appear throughout.-Sylvia V. Meisner, Allen Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 1998 School Library Journal

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School Library Journal Reviews 1999 August
Ada presents stories about growing up in Cuba in the 1940s that would not otherwise be available to readers living in the U.S. This collection offers a close look at an active and loving extended family, and it provides information on a prolific author. An accessible resource for students studying Latino writers. (Gr 3-5) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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