by Margarita Engle
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
Gripping, profound, moving, Your Heart My Sky is a must-read.
Cuba 1991: a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Cubans are starving including fourteen-year old Alina. Skipping forced work camp and putting her family in danger, Alina happens upon a mystical dog she befriends. The "singing" dog is starving like the people, but he leads Alina in her search for food. They meet a boy, Amado, who skipped out on work to forage for food and the trio become a unit.
Police patrol the streets looking for anyone who has not reported for forced work, so Alina and Amado hide in the shadows in order to keep their parents safe. Hunger is constant. It is the only thing Alina can think of except the fact she can share her hunger with a sensitive boy. Together, they search and hope and dream. Their island has no opportunity for them and no food, yet it is their homeland and their soul.
The Pan-Am Games are to be held in Cuba, and all the food is for tourists, not for citizens. Alina dreams of opening a restaurant and having enough food to feed not only herself but hungry guests. The kids plant a garden with the hope of harvesting food. "How can love be enough in a time of hunger?" Alina asks.
Thousands of islanders are leaving Cuba in rafts, hoping to reach freedom and food, but many drown. Alina and Amado consider taking the chance, but worry one of them will drown. What will the survivor do? How lonely is survival? Amado realizes, "Hope is the only cure for hunger." They will stay in their homeland and they will nurture their garden and they will work for their dreams to become reality.
The author's note is especially poignant and Cuba's singing dogs are real (Engle believes so, and I agree).