Book Review: Carmela Full of Wishes

The award-winning creators of Last Stop on Market Street reunite for a beautifully poignant and timely book about family, what we hope for, and what is possible.

Author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson, the creators of the 2015 Newberry Medal and Caldecott Honor book Last Stop on Market Street, have reunited to bring us another beautifully poignant and timely book about family, what we hope for, and what is possible.
 

Today is Carmela's birthday, and it's already a great day: she has a wrist full of new birthday bracelets, and had pancakes with candles in them for breakfast. What makes this birthday really special, however, is that she is finally old enough to accompany her big brother into town as he runs the family's errands. Outside the laundromat (their first stop), Carmela finds "a lone dandelion growing among the concrete weeds." According to her brother, she has to make a wish on it. But what to wish for?

Rendered in images reminiscent of papel picado, Carmela's possible wishes are simple, yes, but embedded in more complex webs of race, class, and our current political realities: a fancy hotel bed for her mom, just like the kind [she] spent "all day making for fancy guests," or a resolution to her father's status, "so he could finally be home." At first glance a story about a young girl's long awaited birthday and how she sometimes annoys her big brother, Carmela Full of Wishes is in actuality a meditation, a wish, a prayer, for what is possible in communities living the realities of immigration and family separation.

Simultaneously published in Spanish as Los deseos de Carmela, de la Peña and Robinson's newest collaboration deserves to not only be widely read and shared by families who see their lived experience in its pages, but also by those who cannot imagine what it is like to wish for something so simple yet made impossible by far-away policies and politics.

 

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