Esperanza Caramelo, the Star of Nochebuena

Knopf. Sept. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593488676.
K-Gr 3–In a magical kitchen full of bakery and pastry tools, a cake ornament comes to life. Esperanza Caramelo dances through the pages, bringing the other ornaments to life. Soon, it will be a celebration with cookie cutters, an abuelita, hot chocolate, dancing figures, and a Christmas tree that sits atop the cake. Nobody notices at first when a kitchen cat perks up and wants to play. In their dash to escape the cat, the cake and all the ornaments are overturned. It is up to the ornaments to make sure that the cake is presentable for Nochebuena. The next morning, the baker walks in with the cat on her shoulder. At this point, the narration breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience in the second person, bringing readers into the story: “the baker knew what you and I have all along—her pastelería had been gifted with a touch of magic.” Atop and around the cake, mariachis, abuelas, dancing partners, children and sparklers, and family pets are featured as a celebration within a celebration. The last page displays a family’s Christmas joy, paralleling the celebration that Esperanza Caramelo and the other figurines had the night before. Each page is a feast for the eyes. Back matter includes the author’s photos of her own abuela’s pastry creations.
VERDICT Richly illustrated with vibrant colors, this picture book is sure to please.

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