All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle (review)
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Reviewed by
Engle, Margarita All the Way to Havana; illus. by Mike Curato. Holt, 2017[34p]
ISBN 978-1-62779-642-2 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R 5–8 yrs

There’s a “zero year” party for a baby cousin in the big city of Havana, but for a while it looks like the trip might not happen. Cara Cara, a ’53 Chevy held together with baling wire, mismatched parts, and determination, is acting up again, which means that our narrator must help Papá tinker under the hood until Cara Cara “once again begins to sound like a chattering hen!” A running car is obviously too good an opportunity to pass up, and soon the car is filled with neighbors hitching a ride. Drop them off and then it’s on to the city, mingling on the roadway with other vintage machines in various stages of repair. From one of the second-floor balconies, where “laundry dances and a sea breeze sings,” relatives wave at the family emerging from Cara Cara, and the party gets underway. Then it’s back to the village in the dark, and in the morning, a chat with Papá about the indefatigable Cara Cara, which has been in the family since abuelo was born and will one day [End Page 449] belong to the narrator. Engle and Curato collaborate on this captivating road trip, with the steady pulse of Engle’s text (prosy on the page, labeled as poetry in the author’s note) punctuated by taka takas, roars, growls, whines, and putt putts of the vehicles, and Curato’s illustrations gliding smoothly from country- to city-scapes, never far from the edge of the sea. Author and illustrator notes remark on reasons for the prevalence of decades-old cars in Cuba and on the first-hand research on a ’54 Chevy that inspired Caruto’s vision of Cara Cara. This will be catnip for the Cruise Night crowd and for any kid who dreams of one day owning a classic set of wheels.

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