From the three-way scrimmage among his great-aunt, his father, and his mother for the right to name him—his mother won—to his growth as a musician, Carlos yearns to hear the song of angels.
Instrument after instrument fails to resonate within his heart until the chords of a guitar stand his arm hairs on end. “An angel’s breath?” But not even his beloved guitar can drown out the English-speaking bullies in San Francisco schools, so he runs away and returns to Tijuana. His family, however disagrees. They’d left Mexico for a better life, and they will not let Carlos stay behind. Bit by bit, the city’s diverse cultural harmonies become one: “the soul of the blues,…the brains of jazz,…the energy of rock and roll…the slow heat of Afro-Cuban drums and the cilantro-scented sway of the music you’d grown up with.” The Santana Blues Band plays through Carlos’ homesickness, plays through Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, plays through Vietnam’s destruction and America’s unrest, until, in front of 400,000 people in Woodstock, the angels finally sing—not to but within Carlos. Ramírez’s double-page–spread acrylic-and–enamel-marker images evoke the vibrant electric energy of Huichol yarn art. The years denoting milestones in Carlos’ story subtly blend into the multicolored pages. Mahin’s second-person lyrical narrative unites the disparate elements that ultimately became Santana.
A musical journey perfectly aimed at young readers’ excitement to know what they will be. (author’s note, bibliography, discography) (Picture book/biography. 6-11)