Carlitos’ yearning for his father takes him on a clandestine solo trip to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, to find him.
In the town of Cataño, across the titular bay from the capital, Carlitos lives with his mother, his abuela, and their cat, Coco. Carlitos’ “family didn’t look like the others.” The neighborhood children play basketball, learn to ride a bike, or do housework with their fathers while Carlitos goes to the barbershop with only his mother. When Carlitos asks about Papi’s whereabouts, his mother reassures him that his father is across the bay—that “sometimes things don’t work out.” Even though he is happy with his family, a desire for more sets Carlitos on a ferry with Papi’s photo in hand. Vibrant illustrations with an inviting tropical palette draw readers in as Carlitos searches high and low for Papi. A refreshingly varied spectrum of brown shades of skin abounds in colorful city scenes. Wide-angle perspectives effectively emphasize emotional scale: the vastness of San Juan Bay, Carlitos’ sense of his own smallness as he searches for his father in the “maze” of the old capital, and his despair at his journey’s end. Aponte’s decision to leave Carlitos’ quest unresolved is an honest one, and readers will respond to this beautiful depiction of a young boy’s physical and emotional journey within a deeply cultural setting.
Shining with palpable pride for family and home. (Picture book. 3-7)