Carmela Full Of Wishes (Matt de la Peña)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Carmela Full Of Wishes, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson, a subtle and moving story of a little girl’s birthday wish.

It’s Carmela’s birthday, which means she gets to go with her brother into town today. After a breakfast of pancakes adorned with birthday candles, the children set off, she following on her scooter as he goes about running errands. The unnamed brother, only older by a few years, is annoyed by his sister’s presence, often snippish as she plays or intentionally rattles her bracelets to annoy him. During the course of their day, Carmela finds a dandelion puff and is testily informed by her sibling that she must make a wish when she blows on it. Mystified by the concept, Carmela thinks of several wishes: a machine that dispenses treats, a soft bed for her mother like the ones she makes in the hotel all day, that her father’s papers will be fixed so he can finally come home. As she ponders over which one to choose, she trips and falls, destroying her “wish”. Her brother’s irritation falls away, and he set about lifting her spirits, showing her a place where wishes know no limits.

Touching and beautiful. A careful and delicate tale that follows a day-in-the-life narrative, its the perspective of the characters that is pitch perfect and unique. Carmela acts, thinks, and speaks as a 7-year-old would, and while larger themes such as immigration, Mexican culture, farm labor, and poverty are seen, to Carmela, they are not nearly as interesting as a dandelion puff or accompanying her brother into town – indeed, something she views as an adventure while he views it as a chore (laundry, quite literally). It’s authentically representative in a way that few books are, and encourage discussion yet maintain a childlike innocence that reminds the reader that children, no matter their circumstances or surroundings, are always still children. The art is lovely, especially the innocently heartbreaking wishes depicted on papel picado. The length is great, and JJ and I loved it. Baby Bookworm approved.

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