Skip to Main Content

Island Treasures

Growing Up in Cuba

About The Book

The author of My Name Is María Isabel offers an inspiring look at her childhood in Cuba in this collection that includes Where the Flame Trees Bloom, Under the Royal Palms, five new stories, and more.

These true autobiographical tales from renowned Hispanic author and educator Alma Flor Ada are filled with family love and traditions, secrets and deep friendships, and a gorgeous, moving picture of the island of Cuba, where Alma Flor grew up. Told through the eyes of a child, a whole world comes to life in these pages: the blind great-grandmother who never went to school but whose wisdom and generosity overflowed to those around her; the hired hand Samoné, whose love for music overcame all difficulties; the beloved dance teacher who helped sustain young Alma Flor through a miserable year in school; her dear and daring Uncle Medardo, who bravely flew airplanes; and more.

Heartwarming, poignant, and often humorous, this wonderful collection encourages readers to discover the stories in their own lives—and to celebrate the joys and struggles we all share, no matter where or when we grew up. Featuring the classic and award-winning books Where the Flame Trees Bloom and Under the Royal Palms, Island Treasures also includes a new collection, Days at La Quinta Simoni, many new family photographs, and a Spanish-to-English glossary.

About The Author

Alma Flor Ada, an authority on multicultural and bilingual education, is the recipient of the 2012 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and in 2014 she was honored by the Mexican government with the prestigious OHTLI Award. She is the author of numerous award-winning books for young readers, including Dancing Home with Gabriel Zubizarreta, My Name Is María Isabel, Under the Royal Palms (Pura Belpré Medal), Where the Flame Trees Bloom, and The Gold Coin (Christopher Award Medal). She lives in California, and you can visit her at

About The Illustrators

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 25, 2015)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481458917
  • Ages: 8 - 12

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

"Ada, an award-winning writer and multicultural and bilingual education expert, recounts childhood memories of growing up in Cuba in the 1940s. Filled with heartwarming vignettes of her childhood in Camagüey, Cuba, Ada's memories are also suffused with the importance of family and friends.... Readers new to Ada's memoirs will be moved and inspired."

– Kirkus Reviews, May 2015

"In this memoir collection, Ada vividly recounts childhood stories, painting pictures with words that allow readers to almost taste Cuban foods, smell her grandmother’s talcum, and feel the red clay used to make pottery.... Ada adopts the tone of an older adult fondly sharing childhood memories with a beloved child—the reader. She weaves life lessons and Cuban customs and values throughout her recollections of eccentric relatives and community members and incorporates descriptions of childhood joys, tragedies, and humorous anecdotes. Although most Spanish terms are translated or defined within the text, a glossary aids those new to the language. VERDICT: A lovely addition to memoir collections."

– School Library Journal, June 2015

"This is an anthology of previously published works, Where the Flame Trees Bloom (Atheneum,1994) and Under the Royal Palms (Atheneum 1998), plus new content. These short two to four page autobiographical vignettes tell family stories of growing up in Cuba. Warm and touching, they have the feel of a grandparent sharing their childhood experience, usually with an embedded lesson but without being preachy. Evoking the people and experiences of growing up in Cuba, and told from a child’s point of view, these stories would make great read-alouds, even with younger students."

– School Library Connection, February 2016, Recommended

Awards and Honors

  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • International Latino Book Award 1st Place
  • Americas Award Commended Title

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Alma Flor Ada

More books from this illustrator: Edel Rodriguez