A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Carmela Full of Wishes is by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson, the same author-illustrator duo who teamed up for Last Stop on Market Street, which won both the Newbery Medal and a Caldecott Honor. This story's set in an immigrant community where workers labor in fields, and Carmela's dad's not living at home with the family because he needs "his papers fixed." Though her family's circumstances are hardscrabble, Carmela enjoys her daily pleasures -- the jingle of her birthday bracelets, and the opportunity to go with her brother to the Laundromat. This sweet and spunky young girl is immensely likable, and readers will root for her wishes to come true.
What's the story?
In CARMELA FULL OF WISHES, Carmela excitedly scooters home on her birthday, past men working in fields. The wish she made came true! She's finally big enough to go with her big brother to the Laundromat. Outside the Laundromat, she picks a fuzzy dandelion, and, as their clothes spin, she thinks of other things she might wish for. A candy machine. Her mom getting to stay in the fancy hotel where she works as a housekeeper. Or, even more poignant, "her dad getting his papers fixed so he could finally be home." Carmela's brother is not happy having his sister tag along, and spats with her. But on the way home, when she trips on her scooter and crushes her dandelion, her brother leads her to a spot overlooking the sea where hundreds of dandelion spores float in the breeze and she can make her wish.
Is it any good?
This delicate, finely wrought story about a young Latina girl lays out the difficult circumstances of her immigrant family while celebrating her as a kid like any other. De la Peña seeds Carmela Full of Wishes with telling details. Her mom works as a housekeeper in a hotel, and her dad used to stand outside the home improvement store, hoping to be hired as a day laborer. Some of Carmela's wishes are simple -- going to the Laundromat with her big brother -- and some are not so simple -- fixing her dad's immigration status so he can return to the family. And yet, Carmela's a kid, recognizable and relatable. She squabbles with her older brother, feistily stands up for herself, wishes for a candy machine, and jingles her bracelets, both to please herself and needle her brother. And, as any kid might, she cries when she takes a tumble and crushes her dandelion.
Illustrator Christian Robinson's acrylic-and-collage illustrations work hand in hand with the text. The brown-skinned siblings and community members are appealingly expressive. Carmela's wishes are enshrined as papel picado, traditional Mexican decorations made of tissue paper with cutout shapes. Her most poignant wish, that her dad returns and embraces her, feels perfectly framed. And the human labor required for farming is underscored in the endpapers, which show scores of workers toiling in the fields.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the family in Carmela Full of Wishes. What do we know about the mom from the story? About the dad? Why do you think the dad's not living with them anymore?
Were you surprised when Carmela and her brother went to the Laundromat by themselves? Do you have any chores you're responsible for in your household?
What do you think of the Carmela's relationship with her big brother? Does it seem real to you? When does he get irritated at her? How does Carmela stand up for herself? How does her brother show he loves her?
- Author: Matt de la Peña
- Illustrator: Christian Robinson
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
- Publication date: October 9, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 4 - 8
- Number of pages: 40
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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