Ana Maria dreams of going to a top-notch private school, but with her family’s income, only a full scholarship will make her dream come true.
Ana Maria Reyes Castillo—her father’s last name means Kings, and her mother’s last name means Castle—does not live in a castle even though her mother reminds her that “we are the Reyes! Wherever we live is our castle.” In fact, she lives with her parents and three sisters in a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights, a heavily Dominican neighborhood of New York City, and a new sibling is on its way, to boot. Through 11-year-old Ana Maria’s voice as she oscillates between self-absorption and empathy, readers discover a close-knit community of family and neighbors. As Ana Maria prepares for a piano recital that she hopes will help her win the coveted scholarship, other events ensue that help her see the importance of the choices she makes: a family trip to the Dominican Republic; a car accident; the birth of the new baby. Burgos’ characters have depth, and the community she portrays is complex, warm, and very real. Themes of socio-economic disparities, bilingualism, and straddling of two cultures are brought effortlessly and realistically into the story.
Readers will find places in their hearts for this strong and multifaceted character. (Fiction. 8-12)