My Brigadista Year

By Katherine Paterson

Young Quills reviews

My Brigadista YearOlivia C’s review
I thought it was brilliant and very thought provoking, it makes you evaluate the freedom and opportunities you get in countries like the UK. I really admire the main character Lora, who we see the point of view in the story. She was incredibly brave and made choices that I don’t think a lot of people would have been able to make. I also found Luis Santana very endearing and quite liked his character. I didn’t particularly like Maria, I found her character rather annoying but tolerable, she kept obsessing on the wrong things and had completely the wrong priorities.

It’s set in 1961, but has information from earlier in the 1900s. I liked reading about the different equality, it was rather insightful. The story it tells is rather unique, or to me anyway, and this makes it very memorable. I would certainly recommend it not only to my peers but almost everyone.

Claudia F’s review
I liked Luis because he was loving, brave, and eager to learn. I didn’t like Maria because she was too focused on herself and her love life. I learnt about the revolution in Cuba. It was an interesting time period because not many books are about Cuba in that time. It wasn’t incredibly realistic because of all the resources they had available. The plot was heart-warming and inspiring with gripping action parts. Lora’s lessons and how eager her students were stood out for me. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Star rating ★★★★

Isabella’s review
My Brigadista Year might be one of my favourite books of all time. It’s about a young female activist who sets off to make a change to her country. I thought the plot was a true page turner and an enjoyable, exciting read. I can’t flaw it except for the fact that there isn’t a sequel.

I would recommend this book to everyone but in particular 11 – 14 year olds.

I think this book is inspirational to any young people that want to change our world for the better.

Star rating ★★★★★

Lucy’s review
I thought this book was quite good. I liked the protagonist, Lora, as she is a relatable and likeable character. I enjoyed the style of writing as a diary/journal, however I would have liked to know more about the other characters. I also didn’t like the fact that there wasn’t a lot of history mentioned because there were some interesting things happening at the time. Overall, I would recommend it to a friend and I thought it was sweet and heart-warming.

Star rating ★★★★

Charlotte’s review
I really enjoyed this book. I found the plot interesting, the characters intriguing, and the time period informative. I thought that the beginning of the book was unclear, and slightly rushed, but as I read more I found myself enjoying it more. Multiple characters underwent major character development which made the book all the more interesting. I found this book very touching and I could really imagine something like this actually happening back then. I found that I could really connect with the characters. Overall I thought this was an amazing book and would definitely recommend it.

Star rating ★★★★

William H’s review
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson is a story about a girl who goes off to be a Brigadista to teach people (campesinos) to read and write. It is set in Cuba at the time when the country was fighting for a fully literate population after their dictator, Batista, had been taken from power by the rebels.

The actual fictional side behind the book is an interpretation of one of the young teacher’s experiences in the year that the campaign was active.

The character I found most interesting was Daniel Acosta. The reason I found him interesting was because of his transition from him being devoted to his agricultural lifestyle and being quite a selfish and jealous man to, because of how jealous he was that his wife could write her own name, blossoming into a kind friendly man who enjoys learning and is building his life on it. I loved the smooth transition into this change, and I love how Paterson never really makes it a focus of any particular region of text, the change just slowly comes into view.

The character that I disliked the most was probably Maria. I didn’t like that she came on a teaching campaign yet was more interested on her non-existent love life. I thought she boasted and gossiped to much too, yet I found strange how that stereotype of a teenager that we see in Maria in the 1960s isn’t very different as the modern one we see today.

I learnt quite a bit about past events from this book. First of all, I never knew there was a fight for literacy in Cuba at any time in the first place. It also taught me about the kind of leader Benitez was (an almost evil one at that). As well as this, I also learned what the living conditions of Cuba were like, and what the culture of Cuba was like too, which I thought very interesting.

I thought the plot was very serious, yet mixed in with some light-heartedness. There were some parts of the book that were quite light-hearted (when the Brigadistas first reached their camp for example). Yet, there were some parts of the book that were quite serious, such as the moments of silence in the camp when something bad happened, yet I think it shows the high spirits and optimism of these young teachers at the time, when the book stays light-hearted even after bad events happen.

What stands out for me about this book is how much I enjoyed it. When I first read the blurb I was thinking that it would be quite “history-book-like”, yet I felt like I was reading a complete fiction story. It was exciting, entertaining, it was set out completely like a fiction story, yet I knew the whole time that I was reading an informative, historically correct history book, which completely blew me away.

I would definitely recommend this book to other pupils, especially if you are doing about South America. If you want to do some revision on the subject of the fight for literacy in Cuba, yet want an entertaining, fun way of doing it, I would really recommend you read this. In fact, any period of history. If you can find an informative, historically correct, yet story-like book on it, reading that is a really good way of reminding yourself or just touching up on your knowledge of whatever subject you’re doing.

Ella’s review
Overall, I quite liked the book. When I first started reading it, I was kind of confused and that was putting me off a bit, but as I carried on reading, it did start making sense to me and grew on me. Out of the characters, I definitely did like the main character, Lora because of her determination. I can’t really say I disliked any main people, or at least none come to mind. I’m still not entirely sure WHEN this was set, but I do have a faint idea of the setting, though I’m not exactly sure what I learned, just that it’s along the lines of what I assume to be an act (is that the right word?) to bring literacy to other places that don’t have it. I would like to find time to do some sort of research on the Brigadista stuff, as it does seem like an interesting concept.

I would definitely recommend this to people who are interested in historical things as I personally found it kind of surprising how something as everyday as literacy was unheard of in another.

I would say about an 8/10, since I was confused at first.

Daniel’s review
I found Lora's literacy family quite interesting because of how fast some of them learnt after years of working on the farm and no education.

They also kept going and supported each other when they struggled with harder challenges. I didn't find the criminals as interesting because they weren't mentioned as much and they didn't have as much of an effect on the story as other characters did.

I learnt from this story that there wasn't as much education at the time in which this book was set and life was dangerous for literacy teachers in the mountains of Cuba. The time it was set was interesting because it was 50 years ago which is a big change for literacy compared to nowadays. The plot was mainly quite serious and sad because of the emotions spread around in different parts of the book.

This book made me want know more about the literacy history of the UK because if it changes Cuba maybe it changed the UK.

I would recommend this book because it teaches you about the history of Cuba and how important it is to read and write.

Clement’s review
Which of the characters did you find most interesting and why?

Which of the characters (if any) were not attractive – why?
There are loads of potential for the main character. Her motivation for joining the literacy campaign, her growth from being naïve and childlike to brave and mature, and the challenges she faced. It is quite rare to find a book in which none of the above is explored and completely thrown out of the window. The character lacks any emotional qualities, or bonds, or growth that makes her stand out as extraordinary. Her adventure was very bland and undriven by anything interesting, and I find it hard to relate to her as the hero of the story. This in turn just makes it more frustrating to see her wasted potential. The illiterate family members are also ushered to the sidelines, with all of them being very two dimensional, adding on to the destruction reaped by the underwhelming protagonist.

Did you learn anything new about the past from the book?
No. I only knew about the book from the selected book list.

What made the history or the time it was set in interesting to you?
Living in a society of poverty.
The benefits of socialism and the conflict with the rest of the capitalist world.

Is this a period of history you knew much about beforehand?

Was the plot exciting, thought-provoking, serious, or light hearted (or any combination of these)? Did this make a difference to whether or not the book was interesting/enjoyable to read?
The plot is nothing near exciting, but simply a bland, straightforward account of an almost smooth-sailing experience that is too perfect to get one’s attention.

Has the book inspired you or made you want to know more about anything?
The backdrop of the book was the only thought provoking bit. I am interested in how difficult it is in poverty and oppression, the idea of socialism and its conflicts with capitalist states despite its benefits for poorer nations.

Would you recommend it to other students – why?
No, the book is a lacklustre devoid of characterisation and meaning in plot despite an intriguing backdrop. The book failed to arouse any of my interest and throws away all the potential provided by the background and characters at the start. It is just an unrealised book and a complete misfire.

Jamaal’s review
My Bridagista Year is a story about a girl called Lora who becomes a literacy teacher. Lora has barely been outside of Havana and wants to go and teach people that are living in poverty. She promises to come back when it hard but shortly after she arrives danger appears in the form of deadly insurgents who are trying to stop the literacy campaign. I think it is a great book and really interesting as I didn’t know anything about Cuba and their history. I am now motivated to learn more about South American history and I would recommend this book to others.

Ruby’s review
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson – is a historical book that many will find interesting. I think older youths should try reading this because it teaches the reader a lot about what we should be doing regarding our own behaviour and actions within the wider community. This book is all about kindness and helping others in need which I think should be taught more in schools. The history in the book is definitely worth knowing and could be inspiring to the reader, making them want to read on. However, I would warn some that it can be a bit confusing at the start trying to figure out the different characters in the story. Despite this I would recommend it to other students, especially those studying history, citizenship and religion as it could come in handy for future learning. Overall a good read that I would say was aimed more for Year 8 – 9 and above.

Minahil’s review
I personally enjoyed this book as it was about someone who wanted to do what she wanted for the better despite her parents being against it at first. It gave of a sense of bravery in character and it was overall good. It taught me a lot about the historical time period and actually made me want to look up more information online. I also liked the cover of the book, as it looked interesting compared to the other books on display. I would recommend it.

Emily’s review
I love this book because it is different to any book I have ever read before, I was surprised by how interesting, and gripping it was. I especially liked the character of Lora (the main character) because I was in awe of her bravery and resilience, but overall I loved all of the characters for different reasons. I learnt about the struggles people who are illiterate face and how people in the past helped people without access to education. Personally, I have never thought about what it would be like to be unable to read or write and this book really made me think about it. The plot was not too dramatic but the book delivered a great message, which made it more enjoyable to read. I would definitely recommend this book to other pupils because it was an interesting, fun, and thought-provoking read.

Minahil's review
I personally enjoyed this book as it was about someone who wanted to do what she wanted for the better despite her parents being against it at first. It gave of a sense of bravery in character and because it was from the perspective of a 13-year-old girl, it made me feel happy as she was passionate about what she wanted to do.

I really liked Lora's character as she was shown as brave, selfless, a great role model, and risk-taking as she knew that the same thing she wanted to do caused her family grief once, being a literacy brigastida (as her uncle died while being one).

I didn't really understand the people wanting to kill the literacy writers though. I was really invested in the story and Lora, and overall enjoyed the book.

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