Review: La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story
Author: Antonio Sacre
Illustrator: Angela Dominguez
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Hardcover: 32 pages
Ages: 5 - 8
At first, Nina wishes she was back up north with her mother and her side of the family because Miami is too hot. She would have liked to play with snow. Her grandmother Mimi only speaks Spanish, but encourages her to speak both Spanish and English.
The family spends the next three days making preparations for La Noche Buena, Christmas Eve. La Noche Buena is the best night of the year according to her dad. Cubans celebrate big time that night.
Nina learns to make marinade with her grandmother, aunts, and cousins in the kitchen. Like the other children in Calle 8, she carries around the marinade. She also helps her cousin Papito carry a pole over toward Uncle Tito, who is making the pig roast.
When La Noche Buena arrives, the family has an amazing time. Nina wears a brand-new dress. Everyone looks sharp in their best dresses and guayabera shirts. Nina and Papito collect fruits from the trees in the neighborhood. The family enjoys a fabulous dinner. Mimi gives a wonderful toast about gratitude. The entire neighborhood is celebrating. At midnight, they go to the Misa del Gallo, where they hug everyone.
The party keeps going when they go back to the house. The family dances and tells stories and jokes until sunrise. Nina ends up very tired but super happy. At the end, she asks Mimi if she can come back next year.
Reading this story with my daughters was a pure delight because I am part Cuban. I was excited about showing them how Cubans celebrate Christmas, which by the way is pretty similar to how Puerto Ricans do it.
The illustrations are colorful and warm, matching Cubans attitude toward celebrations. The story captures how Cuban-Americans celebrate Christmas in Little Havana, Miami, Florida.
On another note, the story briefly discusses the issue of divorced parents. My oldest daughter asked questions about why the girl had to go to Little Havana to spend Christmas while her mother stayed up north. I had a nice talk with my her about some parents being divorced and how children have to spend time with both parents separately. She understood, but thought it was sad. Prepare yourself to answer this kind of questions with your children.
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