The Road to Santiago

By School Library Journal

Alfredito loves visiting his grandmother in Santiago on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), but when he and his parents arrive at the train station in Havana, they discover that civil war has broken out and rebels have blown up the train tracks. Undeterred, Papi finds a farmer to drive them to the next town where they catch a bus; along the way, strangers show them many kindnesses. When they finally make it to Abuela’s house, the extended family puts off dinner until after la misa del gallo (midnight mass) because they have so much to be thankful for. Torrecilla’s brightly colored acrylic paintings evoke a flavor of the 1950s in clothing, home interiors, and vehicles; the Cuban setting, like the story itself, is both exotic and familiar. The spare, first-person text and the luminous illustrations are perfectly juxtaposed to present a memorable slice of life from another time, when… “despite the war, it was still Christmas, it was still Noche Buena, and the world was still good and beautiful.