Cuba 15

Last updated Saturday, June 3, 2006

Author: Nancy Osa
Date of Publication: 2003
ISBN: 0385730217
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2006

Synopsis: (from the publisher) Violet Paz, a Chicago high school student, reluctantly prepares for her upcoming "quince," a Spanish nickname for the celebration of an Hispanic girl's fifteenth birthday.

Note to readers:
•  This is a chapter book. Below you will find a summary of the first two chapters. Use the summary to introduce the book, then begin reading at chapter 3. You may have to come up with questions of your own, depending on how far you get in the book. Plan to read to chapter 6 or 7, depending on the time you have. Remind students that the book will be in their school library, so they can check it out and read it themselves.

In chapter one, we meet Violet Paz, a Polish-Cuban American girl who just turned 15. Her paternal grandmother and grandfather are visiting from Miami, as they do twice a year. Her abuela (grandmother) is intent on planning a quincea?ero or quince for Violet to celebrate her passage into womanhood. Since Violet doesn't know much about her Cuban history and is thoroughly American in her eyes, she is against the ritual from the start - especially the part that includes wearing a dress and making a speech in front of everyone at the party.

Chapter two gives us a glimpse of Violet's personal life - her best friend, Leda Lundquist, and her activities at school, which include drama and speech class. It's in speech class that she's drafted into the debate team and vows to use her Cuban background as the subject of an original speech. The trouble is that neither her father nor her grandparents are willing to talk about life in Cuba. The dictatorship of Castro forced them to flee Cuba and they find it too painful to talk about.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is a quincea?ero? What does it celebrate? Does your family celebrate quincea?eros? [Quince means 15; it?s a celebration of a girl?s becoming a woman.]
•  What are some other coming-of-age celebrations? Are there coming-of-age celebrations in religious groups? How are they celebrated? [Some examples: Native American medicine dream ceremonies, bar and bat mitzvah, Yoruba coming of age in Africa.]
•  Where is Cuba? What do you know about Cuba? Where is Poland? What do you know about Poland?
•  What are some traditions your family celebrates? How do you celebrate?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What kind of person is Violet? What does she like? What doesn?t she like?
•  How does Violet feel about Abuela?s idea of a quincea?ero?
•  Why is it important for Violet to learn about her Cuban culture?
•  What kind of person is Violet?s brother Mark?
•  What kind of person is Violet?s friend Leda?
•  Does Violet know much Spanish? Where is she learning Spanish?
•  What is a cognate (p. 10)? [In this case, a Spanish word that looks enough like an English word that you can figure out its meaning, e.g., tradicional.] What are some Spanish/English cognates you know?

Craft ideas:
•  We are trying something new for 5th grade: an educational craft. There will be information at the school site about cut-paper designs in different cultures. Share this information with students, and discuss what they know about these designs. Tissue paper will probably be available at the site also. Try to bring ahead colored tissue paper, craft punches, hole punches and sharper scissors. Use tissue paper and scissors to create a cut-paper design.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!