Monday, February 25, 2019

Wishing Well! Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena

Today Carmela awoke to candles in her pancakes. Her mom told her, "Go ahead, mija, make a wish."

But Carmela's wish had already come true. She was finally old enough to go with her big brother.

Scootering along behind her brother, Carmela follows past the bus stop and the home improvement store, where her dad used to wait for someone to hire him to work. She spots a seeded dandelion and blows the fluffy floaters away.

"You're supposed to make a wish. Everyone knows that." her brother grouches.

Her brother clearly wishes that she were still too little to go with him, but Carmela just jingles her bracelet to annoy him a little. She holds onto her dandelion stem as she helps her brother wash their clothes at the laundromat, and thinks about her wish. Candy is her first thought, but then she imagines her mother sleeping in one of the many beds in the fancy hotel where she works. It's hard to choose just one best wish. And then, as her brother buys groceries at the bodega, she thinks about her father...

... her dad getting his papers fixed so he could be home.

But then Carmela's scooter wrecks, and her dandelion is crushed. What about her wish?

But her big brother relents and takes her to a field beside the ocean where dandelion parachutes fill the air and float in the wind over the sea.

"Now make your wish!" he says.

Her brother tells her that her wish won't come true if she tells it, and Carmela happily holds it in her heart, in Matt de la Pena's latest picture book, Carmela Full of Wishes (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2018). Working with the artist Christian Robinson, who won a Caldecott Award along with De la Pena's Newbery Medal in their Last Stop on Market Street (review here), this latest joint effort is a poignant and thoughtful story with restrained but eloquent style. Says School Library Journal, “Carmela’s journey of wishing, waiting, and wanting resonates on many levels."

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