On her birthday, a young girl accompanies her brother on his errands for the first time and makes a wish, but not exactly in the way she was expecting.
When readers meet 7-year-old Carmela, she is scootering past workers in fields, excited to tag along with her older brother on her birthday. It’s fun for her, but it’s also necessary: Their mother works in housekeeping for a fancy hotel, and their father was a day laborer who is no longer home. As they run errands, Carmela plays the annoying little sister, but when she falls off her scooter and loses a dandelion wish she was counting on, her brother takes her to a place where her wish is carried further than she could have imagined. This second de la Peña–Robinson collaboration after Last Stop on Market Street is no less powerful and beautiful. It touches on immigration, class, and loss without belaboring each. And it’s full of rich details, sharp and restrained writing, and acrylic paintings that look textured enough to rise off the page. In one brilliant sequence, Mexican papel picado depicts what Carmela imagines, ending with “her dad getting his papers fixed so he could finally be home” and a cutout of a kneeling father embracing his daughter. It’s a bracing page, the best in the book, and just as sublime as the text.
It’s another near-perfect slice of life from a duo that has found a way to spotlight underrepresented children without forgetting that they are children first. (Picture book. 3-8)