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Reviewed by:
  • Tía Isa Wants a Car
  • Deborah Stevenson
Medina, Meg. Tía Isa Wants a Car; illus. by Claudio Muñoz. Candlewick, 2011. 32p. ISBN 978-0-7636-4156-6 $15.99 R 5–9 yrs

Money is tight in the narrator’s household; she’s living with her uncle, Tío Andres, and his sister, Tía Isa, in a small apartment as they save up money to bring the rest of the family over from their island home. The hot city summer, however, makes Tía Isa long for the beach, and she’s determined to get a car so that the family can head out for freedom whenever they want. The protagonist chips in with money earned from small jobs around the neighborhood, and soon there’s an aqua-blue convertible in front of their building, ready “to carry us all to the sea.” Smooth, subtly creative style and evocative incidental detail make this a generous and savvy slice of life, where the family here misses the family and home on the island desperately (“A beach,” says the narrator, “has foamy water that reaches all the places I cannot go”) but are also making a good home for themselves where they are. The book echoes Williams’ A Chair for My Mother (BCCB 12/82) in both story and style, but it’s got its own sensibility as well. The picture of family life is easygoing but evocative, with Spanish words in dialogue effectively woven into the English text, and the close comradeship between the glamorous young aunt and the narrator is one that many youngsters will envy. In his illustrations, Muñoz creates our narrator’s urban world in sun-bleached watercolors, pale hues of tropical shades, touched with loose, rangy line; elements of hand-painted pattern, especially in the clothes, add energy. The convertible’s aqua is a theme from the endpapers to page borders to the sea itself, tying the book together visually; Tía Isa is a spirited stunner just ripe for hero-worshipping by the young protagonist, and the setting emerges vividly through details of baking streets and geometric lines of buildings. Kids with faraway family members will especially relate to this, but anybody who’s felt trapped at home in a hot summer will recognize the lure of freedom and the glee of an open-air drive. [End Page 30]



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