All the Way to Havana

Together, a boy and his parents drive to the city of Havana, Cuba, in their old family car. Along the way, they experience the sights and sounds of the streets–neighbors talking, musicians performing, and beautiful, colorful cars putt-putting and bumpety-bumping along. In the end, though, it’s their old car, Cara Cara, that the boy loves best.

Award-winning Cuban-American author and poet Margarita Engle takes young readers on a colourful tour of Havana, bringing the city and its resourceful inhabitants vibrantly to life. A young boy and his family travel to visit family and celebrate the birth of a new baby relative, riding along in their old but much beloved car, which has already been passed on from the boy’s grandfather to his father, and one day will be his.

Engle celebrates a resourceful people who have weathered political and economic storms, and have creatively built lives for themselves their wits and whatever materials they could scrape together. This reality exists in stark contrast to North America’s disposal consumer culture, in which anything broken is simply thrown away, and anything old is quickly replaced with a shiny new model. The Cubans, through several decades of embargo, have developed a culture of making do, doing without, and getting on with it, without, as Engle muses in her author’s note, ever losing hope.

All the Way to Havana offers readers a loving glimpse into everyday life in Cuba’s historic capital, which will likely have an even greater impact on American readers than their Canadian counterparts. While the United States has had a tempestuous relationship with their Caribbean neighbour, Canadians have been able to travel to and from Cuba with ease for decades, and the country is a popular tourist destination. In fact, Canada normalized relations with Cuba in the 1970s, and on average 1.2 million Canadians vacation in Cuba every year, making up 40% of all tourists. Millions of Canadians have explored Havana’s crumbling streets, and have admired cars like those pictured in All the Way to Havana. For American audiences, though, this insight into everyday Cuban life could help normalize and humanize a country that for decades was considered a danger and a threat. As young readers will quickly realize, Cuban children aren’t that very different from children everywhere – they love spending time with their families, celebrating momentous occasions like the birth of a new cousin, and exploring their hometown together.

Mike Curato’s illustrations are sure to delight all young car lovers, who will thrill in the colourful images of classic rides. In his illustrator’s note, Curator talks about the real cars that inspired his illustrations, and about the ingenuity and creativity of their owners.

All the Way to Havana is a lovely, poetic ode to an everyday family celebrating an everyday miracle – the arrival of a new baby. Engle and Curator revel in the similarities that bind all people together, as well as the unique colour and spirit that makes Cuba the country it is.