Tia Isa Wants a Car
by Meg Medina; illus. by Claudio Munoz
Primary Candlewick 32 pp.
6/11 978-0-7636-4156-6 $15.99
The young narrator lives in America with her Tia Isa and her Tio Andres, trying to save enough money so the rest of the family can join them. But Tia Isa wants something else: she wants a car. A car that is "the same shiny green as the ocean" outside her former island home; a car that has "pointy wings off the back ... like the gulls" that flew overhead and stole crabs back home. They look for such a car, only to discover that they don't have enough money--yet. The narrator incorporates Spanish words naturally, translating them as first-generation English-speaking children do, giving the dialogue an authenticity that is neither laborious nor stilted. "Vamos, Tia, let's go," she says when it's finally time to buy their perfect car--"ese mismo ... the very one." The soft watercolor illustrations mirror rather than extend the text, a real strength for children more fluent in Spanish than English; they can visually follow the narrative told primarily in English but sprinkled with familiar phrases. Beginning readers will also find a satisfying story, with illustrations aiding their reading and the jaunty phrase "Tia Isa wants a car" repeating often enough to provide a respite from attacking new words. Many illustrative details (including the cars) indicate a mid-twentieth-century setting, while others (the library's computer, the TV's remote control) demand a later date. But if the illustrations don't transcend time, the story's themes--the yearning for family and a precious possession--do.