The Red Umbrella
The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro's revolution. In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched. As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own. Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl? The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home. From the Hardcover edition.
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The soldier below is wearing fatigues. Did you know that you can look up any English word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. (This annotation contains an image)
The dictionary function associated with Curriculet will only work with English words. All Spanish words used in this story are indicated in italics. These words are defined in an alphabetical glossary at the end of the book, located a few pages into the Acknowledgements section. The best way to navigate between this glossary and your reading is to use the table of contents, found by clicking on the orange "C" in the upper left-hand corner. (This annotation contains an image)
The Red Umbrella begins in Puerto Mijares, Cuba. Based on the details so far, what can you infer about this setting?
Although this books contains a glossary, the meanings of most of the Spanish words can be figured out through context clues. Based on the context of the highlighted phrase, what is the most logical translation for Mamá's words to Frankie?
Each chapter in "The Red Umbrella" begins with a real U. S. newspaper headline from a different date in 1961 or 1962. Read the article titles to get an idea of the history behind the events of the book. The dates listed match the dates of each chapter in the story, so you can use them to keep track of time in the story.
Cuba is a beautiful, tropical country as shown in the photo below. (This annotation contains an image)
The Cuban Revolution began in 1959 when Fidel Castro led a movement to overthrow the existing dictator, President Fulgencio Batista. After gaining power, Castro began establishing a communist system of government. This meant that the government took control of the wealth in order to restructure society, promising to eliminate both the rich and the poor by making everyone financially equal. The picture below shows Castro riding triumphantly through the streets after his victory. (This annotation contains an image)
Lucía and her mother have very different perspectives on the revolution and its soldiers. Explain the two different perspectives contained in the highlighted selection. In other words, what does Lucia think about the soldiers, and what does Mama think?
Which of the following is not an effect of the revolution?
The word "worms" has a negative connotation. All words have a denotation (a literal definition) and a connotation (an idea or emotion associated with them). The denotation of "worm" is "a soft-bodied small invertebrate," but the connotation is a sense of something disgusting or cowardly. The chart below gives more examples of denotations and connotations. (This annotation contains an image)
"Comunista" is Spanish for "communist." What does the connotation of the word "spat" tell us about the old man's opinion of communists?
"Quinces" is short for "quinceañera," which is a celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday in many Latin American countries. The party is typically very elaborate involving dancing and formal dresses such as those pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
What is one indication that Frankie is still disturbed by the shot he heard earlier?
Fidel Castro thought that educating the young was essential for the future of Cuba. The Jóvenes Rebeldes were the Rebel Youths who met together to discuss ways the youth could aid in the goals of the Revolution. One main way was as brigadistas (pictured below), who were members of the literacy brigade sent to the countryside to teach their illiterate countrymen how to read. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the words below has a negative connotation? Use context clues to help you figure out the Spanish words.
The narrator in this story is fourteen-year-old Lucía Álvarez. Her perspective helps shape the way the story is told to us. Watch the video below to learn more about the way point of view affects "The Red Umbrella." (This annotation contains a video)
When deciding what is important, Lucía's point of view differs from her mother's. What seem to be Lucía's priorities at this point?
Mamá's red umbrella is an important symbol in this book. It represents strength because of its red color, but it also represents Mamá's desire to protect her family. She indicates this when she tells Lucía that the red umbrella is "the only one I've ever found that's big enough to protect all of us from the rain." Watch the video below to learn more about symbols. (This annotation contains a video)
The Álvarez family is facing many challenges due to the Cuban revolution. How does Lucía's personality create even more conflict in her family?
Why is Papá upset that his brother Antonio joined the CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution)?
When Papá talks about "fancy rhetoric," he is referring to persuasive language that Fidel Castro and other leaders of the Revolution use. Choosing words carefully can affect people's emotions very strongly, but it can also hide the truth. When Ivette's father says Papá should report anything suspicious, he really means Papá should spy on others. Be on the lookout for other places in the book where characters use fancy or emotional words to hide the truth.
What does the highlighted sentence reveal about Cuba's relationship with the United States?
Which of the following words is the best synonym (same meaning) for elite? Use the dictionary function for help if you need to.
The idea of a communist society is that everyone is equal. To get rid of the privileges of the rich, the government closed places like Yacht Clubs, which only the wealthy could afford. They reopened the clubs as free places for all citizens to enjoy ... as long as they agreed with the Revolution.
What are three ways the Revolution has limited people's freedom so far?
As Lucía's emotions vary, so does her tone and the mood she creates for the reader. Watch the explanation of tone and mood below, then try to identify how the mood changes as you read Chapter 6. (This annotation contains a link)
Words with strong emotional connotations help to create the mood of a scene. Write down one word from the highlighted paragraph that helps create a cheerful mood and explain why it does so.
In Chapter 3 we learned that Laura's father owned a newspaper. The newspaper was shut down and he was sent to prison. Whether he was writing lies or truth, the Cuban government denied him freedom of speech.
Foreshadowing is a word used to describe clues in a story that hint at what's to come. Which of the options below foreshadowsLucía's encounter with Doc's Machado's body?
What do the five asterisks (* * * * *) on this page represent?
A pattern seems to be emerging. Like Laura Milian's father, Doc Machado was denied the right to speak his mind.
Mamá and Papá hint at rumors without explaining them. This gives us the sense that these rumors might be mentioned again later. What literary device is this an example of?
Lucía is starting to understand her mother and father's fears about the Revolution, but they doesn't mean they agree about everything. Lucía still has many ideas that differ from her parents', such as her taste in clothing.
Which option below best describes Ivette's political views at this point?
Lucía's short flashback to her frightening experience emphasizes how powerful that experience was. She is unable to forget about it even though she tries to.
Lucía has let it slip that her parents hid jewelry under the floorboards of their house. Make a prediction for how you think Ivette will handle this information. Support your prediction with references to Ivette's words, actions, or personality so far.
By Chapter 8, "The Red Umbrella" is in the "rising action" stage of its plot. As a story moves toward its climax, complications arise that create tension in the story. These complications are called conflicts. In "The Red Umbrella," Papá's argument with his brother Antonio is just one more conflict that builds tension. Read the diagram below for a reminder of the five important stages in a plot. (This annotation contains an image)
The picture below gives some samples of the styles of dresses worn in the 1960s. The women here also wear popular short hairstyles, like Lucía wants. (This annotation contains an image)
Tío Antonio never says he wants to apologize, only that he wants to speak to his brother. This is a good example of the way Lucía's limited point of view affects the way she views others. Because she does not fully understand the argument between her father and uncle, she misreads the situation.
How could Mamá's personality best be described?
Calling the yacht club a "nest of parasites" is an example of
For a glimpse of what this 1961 high school dance may have looked like, watch this clip from a '60s Twist contest. (This annotation contains a video)
Which word below is the best antonym (opposite meaning) for doused as it is used in this context? Use the dictionary feature for help if necessary.
Lucía is still learning how to stand up for herself. She believes she is the one at fault for making Manuel angry, and she thinks she should have gone along with Manuel's desires to make the situation easier. This is much like the choice all Cubans had to make during the revolution: should they give in to things that make them uncomfortable or should they fight back and face the challenges that will follow?
Do you think Ivette is a good friend for Lucía? Explain two to three reasons for your opinion using references to the story.
An important theme, or lesson, of the book is becoming clear. The author, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, is using the events and characters to point out the importance of thinking for yourself and standing up for your beliefs even in the face of difficulty. Watch the video below for an explanation of the way themes develop in a story. (This annotation contains a video)
In the space of a few minutes, Lucía goes from relying on her friend Ivette to rejecting her. What character quality in Lucía explains this sudden change?
In 1948, the United Nations wrote a document called "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights." The document lists the rights entitled to all humans everywhere in the world. Follow the link below and read Articles 1-13. Pay attention to any rights that have been violated so far in this story. (This annotation contains a link)
List two universal human rights that have been violated in The Red Umbrella. Explain how these rights were violated.
As the action continues to rise and the plot tension increases, more and more conflicts develop. Watch the video below to learn about the two kinds of conflict: internal and external. (This annotation contains a video)
What kind of struggle is Lucía facing in the highlighted selection?
Ch. 1-12 Quiz
This historical newspaper headline indicates that Cuban citizens were being openly called upon to act as spies. How was this part of history included in The Red Umbrella?
One definition of "indoctrinate" is "to brainwash." Many leaders throughout history have emphasized the importance of indoctrinating the young and gaining their support. Often this is because children are not educated enough to know the truth; then, once they are taught the government's principles, they do not question what they are told.
Which of the following is a clue that Mamá is keeping something from Lucía?
Imagery is language that appeals to the five senses. The picture below shows examples of the five types of imagery. Imagery, like the sound imagery in the highlighted sentence, helps make a scene seem more realistic. The description of Lucía's heart thumping loudly helps us imagine the scene and sense the suspenseful mood. (This annotation contains an image)
When told she is being sent to the U.S., Lucía wants to yell at her parents and storm out of the room like her brother, but she does not. Reread her reaction in the highlighted selection. What does this reaction indicate about Lucía?
As this headline indicates, many refugees fled Cuba under Castro's government. In 1961, children in particular were sent to the U.S. Like Lucía and Frankie, many of them left their parents behind. The movement of these children and protection of them within the United States was called Operation Pedro Pan. "Pedro Pan" is Spanish for "Peter Pan," the fairy tale character known for being without parents.
Lucía's parents clearly love their children very much. The decision to send them to the United States must have been very difficult. What are two character qualities Mamá and Papá show by sending their children away?
Which word below has a negative connotation?
Papá knew all along who had reported the family's hidden jewelry, yet he never told his children. Perhaps this is just one more instance of Papá trying to shield his children from the harshness of life during the revolution.
Remember the big, red umbrella that Lucía used to hate? Mamá said she loved it because it was the only umbrella big enough to protect her whole family. Its presence in this chapter is symbolic: being sent to the U.S. alone is something else that Lucía dislikes, but once again Mamá chooses it in order to protect her children.
What kind of figurative language is contained in the highlighted sentence?
The 1960s was the decade of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. There really were race riots during this period, as African Americans and other minorities fought for equal rights. While Cubans sent their children to the United States for the freedoms the country offered, many Americans were still fighting for those same freedoms. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the setting affect Lucía's attitude?
Think of how the word "facility" differs from the word "home" or even "house." Although a facility might mean a building with eating and sleeping areas, just like a home, the connotation of "facility" suggests a sterile, unfeeling, and cold place to live.
What are three similarities between the experiences described in the video clip and Lucía and Frankie's experience?
Watch the 2009 video below in which real-life Pedro Pan children recall their experiences. Be prepared to hear the name Raúl Castro. After remaining in charge of the country for almost half a century, Fidel Castro handed power over to his brother, Raul in 2008. Raúl remains the president of Cuba today. (This annotation contains a video)
How does weather in this selection help develop the mood? (You will have to explain what the mood is to fully answer this question.)
Mrs. Eckhart and the other people who run the camp are genuinely trying to help these Cuban children. Nevertheless, in order to keep things running smoothly, they have to implement rules and a strict schedule.
What fear do Frankie and Lucía share?
The schedule and early bedtime in the camp are just two of the many differences between life in the United States and life in Cuba. Pay attention to the cultural differences as you continue reading.
As Chapter 18 ends, Frankie is caught in the girls' dorm, but the consequences of his offense are not yet described. By leaving this information for the next chapter, the author
There seems to be a small lesson here, telling us that good deeds get rewarded.
What is the symbolism of the children's unpacked suitcases?
How much do you know about countries you have never visited? Much of Lucía's perceptions of the United States are based on stereotypes she has heard or seen in movies.
Which of Mrs. Baxter's comments indicates that she does not understand how Lucía is feeling?
What seems to be the relationship between Cuba and the United States according to these news clips?
Lucía and Frankie have left Cuba for now, but they still love their country. Mrs. Baxter, on the other hand, has a very negative impression of Cuba. Click below to watch the 1961 news updates about U.S. and Cuban relations and better understand Mrs. Baxter's perception of Cuba. (This annotation contains a video)
The new setting is very different from Lucía and Frankie's homeland. The picture shows a Nebraska farmhouse surrounded by flat, empty fields. (This annotation contains an image)
As Lucía faces many new changes in her life, she will most likely change as well, in both big and small ways. When a character changes, he or she is called dynamic. Characters who do not change are called static. Watch the video below for a full explanation of these terms. (This annotation contains a video)
The plate below shows rice, black beans, and picadillo, a dish made with ground beef, peppers, onions, and spices. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the highlighted selection tell us about Mrs. Baxter?
List three things the Baxters have done that indicate they will be kind to Lucía and Frankie?
Cuba is a tropical climate. The average year-round temperature in Havana (the capital) is 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
In living with the Baxters, which of the following is not a change Lucía and Frankie must make?
Which line below contains a simile?
Misbehaving in the Baxter house might make Lucía nervous for several reasons. She does not know how Americans treat children who misbehave; she is not yet sure how the Baxters truly feel about hosting her and Frankie; finally, she is trying to make a good impression so her parents will be proud.
How does Mrs. Baxter's decision to spray the kids with the hose affect the mood of this scene?
In the early 1960s most countries still used human switchboards, or telephone operators. Any long distance call had to go from operator to operator before finally reaching the home of the desired person. Each operator would connect the phone line to the next destination by literally plugging a cord into a specific port (see photo below). This made the process both slow and costly. (This annotation contains an image)
Papá uses the word "adventure" because it has positive connotations and will help cheer his children up. Which synonym for adventure has a negative connotation?
Ch. 13-24 Quiz
Which theme of the book does this paragraph help develop?
Until the mid-1960s, Catholic masses everywhere in the world were conducted in Latin. This meant that no matter what country a Catholic was from, he or she would recognize the service.
Do you agree more with Mrs. Baxter's or Lucía's impression of Mr. Baxter? What seem to be Mr. Baxter's feelings toward the Álvarez children? Explain how you can tell.
What has Lucía come to value most in her life?
Christina Diaz Gonzalez uses the image of shoulders dropping several times in this book. It is intended to show a feeling of relief. To test the truth of this image, hold your breath like you're really nervous. Then let it out in relief. You will feel your shoulders drop downward as you do so!
Lucía says she is not the same girl she was in Cuba. The fact that she has grown up a little means that
Lucía finally asks to cut her hair while feeling frustrated with her mother. It is an impulsive decision, but something she has wanted for a long time. Short styles like the one pictured below were popular in the 1960s. (This annotation contains an image)
Remember to keep reading the newspaper headlines. As you read Chapter 26, think about how this article title fits the events that take place in it.
The fact that Lucía and Frankie are now about to start school in America tells you that
Notice how much the setting can shape a character's emotions. The rippling corn makes Lucía homesick for Cuba's tropical ports. Does the cornfield below remind you of an ocean the way it reminds Lucía? (This annotation contains an image)
What is the connotation (emotional association) of the word cute?
Like human rights, some experiences in life are universal; all people share them. Lucía notes that she is not that different from her classmates. Neither are most of her fears. Nervousness about what to wear, fear of being singled out, and worry about making new friends are common fears of new students everywhere.
Mrs. Brolin's failure to understand Lucía's feelings about being singled out is most likely due to
Mrs. Baxter may not understand Spanish or Cuba well, but she does understand teenage girls. She seems to know what Lucía is feeling and goes out of her way to help her.
One of the themes of The Red Umbrella is the importance of thinking for ourselves. Which line from the chapter relates to that theme?
Friendship is another universal feeling. Notice how by late September, Lucía is already talking to Jennifer much like she used to talk to Ivette.
"Waiting for the corn to grow" is an idiom from the American Midwest. It most likely means
To Lucía, "average" means "normal" - something she hasn't felt in months.
Calling the snow "soft kisses from heaven" is an example of
Here is another place where Lucía and Mrs. Baxter don't see eye to eye. When Mrs. Baxter mentions Lucía's favorite foods, she is leaving out all of the Cuban foods Lucía grew up knowing and loving. Lucía may enjoy cheeseburgers and french fries, but she would probably prefer her mother's Cuban cooking.
What does Mr. Baxter's gift confirm?
Ivette is saying that she was raped. One of the effects of living in a country that suppresses freedom of speech is that people, like Ivette, are often afraid to speak out even when a crime has been committed against them.
What important fact does Ivette's letter reveal about Lucía's parents?
Which word best captures Lucía's tone as she describes Nochebuena (Christmas Eve)?
We've seen a change in both Mr. and Mrs. Baxter. They've started to see things from Lucía and Frankie's point of view a bit more. Mr. Baxter has begun including the Álvarez family in his prayers, and Mrs. Baxter has tried to cook the children's favorite Cuban foods instead of the traditional American ones.
Today, home videos are easy to record on handheld devices, but in the 1960s they were rare and saved for special occasions. The fact that Mr. and Mrs. Baxter want to record Lucía and Frankie opening their presents shows that the children truly mean a lot to them. The picture below shows the kind of projector required to play old (and silent) home videos. (This annotation contains an image)
How do Lucía and Frankie feel about the Baxters at this point? Support your answer with examples from the text.
Younger children tend to adjust to new cultures and habits more easily than older ones. Frankie is a good example of this.
Explain how this portion of Ivette's letter shows that she is a dynamic character. Refer to at least one specific line from the letter in your answer.
Which of the following helps build suspense and increase tension regarding Papá's fate?
By telling Lucía the truth about her father's injuries, Mamá is acknowledging the fact that Lucía has matured and earned her parents' trust.
Click on the link below to see a picture of "The Four Freedoms" as painted by Norman Rockwell in 1943. The paintings represent the freedoms that Americans fight to preserve. Write three or four sentences explaining how the paintings relate to the topic of freedom in The Red Umbrella.http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-u7UskZjpSlk/TWp39R1KXSI/AAAAAAAAEVM/SZiBEhOZMOQ/s1600/KLBlog%2B1024.jpg
Lucía is describing an important internal conflict. She is torn between her gratitude for the United States and her love for Cuba, her new life and her old life.
Although conflicts such as Frankie teasing Lucía still continue to arise, one main conflict dominates the book. What is the central conflict in The Red Umbrella?
Do you notice the way the story is repeating itself? Just months ago in Cuba, Lucía was preparing for her first Cuban dance, talking excitedly with Ivette about Manuel. Now, she is preparing for her first American dance, talking with Jennifer about Eddie. The last dance ended drastically. Now, Lucía is in a new country and has grown up quite a bit. Do you think this dance will be different from the first one?
The white heron is a symbol to Lucía. What does it represent?
Ivette's words are a good example of the "rhetoric" Papá spoke of earlier in the book. Her letter has strong, persuasive emotion, but that does not mean that it states the truth. Ivette may not even know the truth herself, but Lucía does.
Explain three changes that make Lucía a dynamic character by this point in the novel.
This visual imagery helps paint a picture of the elaborate decorations for the big spring dance.
What makes Lucía feel relaxed around Eddie?
A lot of growing up is about finding where you belong. Lucía feels like a champ because she is finally starting to feel like she fits in somewhere.
What can you infer by Mamá's decision to make such an expensive phone call.
The roles have reversed. Mamá sounds "like a little girl" and Lucía is giving her directions. A true sign of Lucía's increased maturity and self-confidence is her assurance to her mother that she will "take care of everything."
We have reached the moment of highest tension in the novel. The turning point must come soon: either the Álvarez family will succeed in being reunited, or they will fail. This means that we have reached the novel's
Mrs. Baxter is truly an unselfish woman. She will miss Lucía and Frankie dearly, but she knows they will be happiest with their parents. As a result, she does everything she can to help prepare a life for the Álvarez family together.
Why does Lucía care so much what her mother thinks of her?
The Álvarez family is finally together and free. What point in the plot have we reached?
Ch. 25-37 Quiz
Continue on to read the brief, but important, author's note on the next few pages.