My Brigadista Year – book review

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My Brigadista Year
by Katherine Paterson
Historical Fiction
Juvenile Fiction (grades 5-8)
* * * * Stars (Great!)

It’s 1961 and Lora, who has grown up in Havana, Cuba, wants to become a brigadista, and teach people in faraway rural communities how to read and write. Her parents want to refuse (she’s too young, it’s too dangerous), but her grandmother persuades them to let her go, even though Lora is only thirteen. Lora receives training along with the other volunteers and the brigadistas are sent to live with host families, working beside them and offering literacy classes to anyone who is interested. Lora’s host family all want to participate and eventually they convince their neighbors to join as well. The students (of all ages) must pass three successively difficult tests and Lora is determined to see her group through to the end despite the challenges and dangers they face (machismo, bandits, counterrevolutionaries, etc.). In a year’s time, the brigadistas make amazing progress – effectively stamping out illiteracy in Cuba. Lora’s determination and helpful nature are inspiring, as is the progress made by her students. The friendships she makes are heartwarming, and it truly feels like she has another family in the mountains. Readers will learn a little bit about Cuba and this time in its history, and the author helpfully provides notes on her research (and sources, for anyone who might want to know more), as well as a timeline of Cuba’s history.

Reviewed by YA Librarian

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