For my writer friends:
“Do not wait for inspiration to strike. Inspiration is only ever granted to those who work hard.”
— Zoe Heller, author
Everytime I see a photo of the Home during its’ time as a shelter for children and compare it to the way it looks today, I realize it is a travesty that the building, and all the voices it holds, may be lost forever.
Do you remember that quaint way of communicating in which the receiver can actually hear inflection, gasping, snorting, and real live air moving in and out of a voice box? When “LOL” had a noise attached to it — and I don’t mean a clicking sound on a keyboard?
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with two gentlemen (in the real sense of the word) who were Pedro Panes and lived in the Holy Family Orphans’ Home. I appreciate how openly they shared their memories. Their experiences were different and similiar in many ways, but both highlighted the warmth and connectedness they still feel from the Marquette community. According to a database shared by one of the gentlemen I mentioned, 53 Pedro Panes lived here throughout the course of the mission.
I’m working on an article for a regional historical magazine about the role the Holy Family Orphans’ Home played in Operation Pedro Pan. (This research is strengthening the chapter book, too.) And, while secondary research is quick and easy, it never beats a good old-fashioned noise-filled conversation.
author Jacqueline Woodson
The plot synopsis follows:
This historical fiction, upper middle grade chapter book is for readers aged 12-14. The main characters in the story are based upon the lives of real people. However, this book is not a complete representation of their lives or the events that occurred.
Set in an orphanage in 1962 just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is the story of how friendship saves two culturally dissimilar 12-year-old boys who are tragically disconnected from their families. This is the first story written for children readers with a main character who was part of the Pedro Pan mission, the largest political exodus of children ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.
Danny suddenly finds himself a half-orphan after his mother dies, his father succumbs to alcoholism, and he is handed over to an abusive family friend. Danny runs away and lands in the Holy Family Orphan’s Home in Marquette, MI. This orphanage is the foster home for 30 boys who are part of the Pedro Pan mission, which brought over 14,000 children as exiles from Cuba during the first tumultuous years of Fidel Castro’s communist regime.
Danny and Emilio, a Cuban exile, come together through Father Timothy, the monsignor in charge of the orphanage. Because Cubans primarily live at the orphanage, their food, music, and emotions permeate the environment. Danny enters a milieu very different from his experience in a small Midwestern town. Outside the orphanage, Emilio faces discrimination, language barriers, and living conditions vastly different from his former life experience.
The boys find common ground through their mutual desire to return to their old lives and their interest in baseball. However, when an older Cuban boy bullies Danny, Emilio must choose his alliance and the clash between cultures becomes clear.
Outside influences and abandonment wounds threaten their tentative friendship. But, when they accept that their old lives are gone forever and recognize the value of their friendship, they forge an unbreakable bond — and find hope in their future.
This is a great opportunity to share, get new ideas, and move forward on your dream of writing and/or illustrating and publishing children’s books.