FICTION

Carmela Full of Wishes

illus. by Christian Robinson. 40p. Putnam. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399549045.
COPY ISBN
OrangeReviewStarPreS-Gr 2—Today is Carmela's birthday, the long-awaited milestone that means she may accompany her brother to town. To Carmela, this is a wonderful adventure despite the mundane nature of the trip—washing clothes at the laundromat. Naturally, her brother would rather go alone, and finds Carmela's enthusiasm exasperating. When she finds a dandelion, he stops her just before she blows the seeds away and tells her that she needs to make a wish first. The simple weed becomes a powerful talisman for the child, and she holds it tightly, helping one-handed with the laundry as she contemplates the perfect wish. Carmela's ideas about what to wish for realistically range from an endless supply of candy to, "Imagining her mom sleeping in one of those fancy hotel beds she spent all day making for fancy guests." And, "Imagining her dad getting his papers fixed so he could finally be home." Each of her dreams is cunningly portrayed as a papel picado flag. Robinson's textural cut paper and paint collages portray a busy neighborhood and make even the most prosaic settings sing with life and beauty. When a stumble causes Carmela to lose her dandelion and all the wishes that it represents, her brother comes to her aid and shows her, and readers, something truly beautiful. The ending is just open-ended enough to satisfy while leaving plenty of room for discussion.
VERDICT Carmela's journey of wishing, waiting, and wanting resonates on many levels; an important addition to bookshelves everywhere.

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