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[Saturday Reads] The Revolutionary Power Of Unvoiced Wishes

... in "Carmela Full Of Wishes"


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

I have heard of this book for quite awhile now, and I was beyond excited to find it on Overdrive.

Carmela Full Of Wishes [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Matt De La Peña Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (2018)
ISBN: 0399549048 (ISBN13: 9780399549045). Literary Award: Charlotte Zolotow Award Nominee for Highly Commended (2019). Borrowed from NLB Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

It is Carmela’s birthday and as the title indicates, she is indeed full of wishes. When she blew out the candles from her birthday pancake in the morning, however, she felt that her wish had already come true. It was a fairly simple wish – to be old enough to accompany her brother as he does the family chores around their neighborhood.

While the story deals with themes of immigration, securing proper documentation, poverty – they never surfaced as the primary themes in the story, but more as a keenly felt backstory providing nuance to the siblings’ quiet bickering and annoyance at being forced to spend time with each other (at least from the brother’s point of view).

Throughout the narrative, it is clear how the brother is annoyed by the jingle-jangle of Carmela’s bracelets. He would take pains to prove that he knows much more than Carmela, pointing out that blowing dandelion puffs in the air should be accompanied by wishes and that “everybody knows that.”

Everything about this story rings true, from the little clues left here and there about the family’s situation to the detailed depiction of the city that seemed to hum with its own voice, yet it is the siblings’ relationship that shone through the brightest.

What I especially loved about the story is its subtlety – there were plenty of spaces for the reader to breathe in the narrative, to find and lose themselves in it. And yes, the revolutionary power of blowing wishes into the air in a world that discourages dreaming for certain groups of people. I now understand why this book received all the love when it first came out. Beautiful book.

#ReadIntl2020 Update: Both author and illustrator are POC.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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