Tia Isa Wants A Car by Meg Medina is about separated immigrant families and working hard to achieve goals. The unnamed narrator lives in an apartment with her aunt and uncle (a brother and sister), while her Mami, Papi, and Abuelo remain on some far off island. Most of the money that Tia Isa and Tio Andres earn is sent "back home--along with notes and pictures so Mami can see how I've grown."
Despite money being tight, Tia Isa decides that she wants to save up to buy a car, so that she can drive to the beach. Tio Andres thinks that this is "Rrrridiculo". But Isa and her niece work hard to raise money, and in support of the dream of buying a car.
Although this book certainly conveys messages about working hard, and believing that you can achieve what you set out to do, Tia Isa Wants A Car doesn't feel message-y. It feels more like a true story about an immigrant family. Part of Isa's determination involves showing up her doubting brother. And the first thing that Isa and her niece do once they get their car is tape up a picture of the whole family. It's a family story (and a note at the end suggests that this book is loosely based on the author's own childhood experience).
One thing I like about this book is the casual sprinkling of Spanish words throughout the text, not enough to need a glossary, or to be confusing, but enough to lend a Latina flavor to the book. I also quite like Claudio Munoz's pencil, watercolor, and ink illustrations. They are warm and colorful, particularly the ones that show the beach. There's a slight blurring of the images of the family back home, just enough to make it clear that they are separate from the book's day-to-day reality.
And the pictures absolutely help with the characterization in the story. Isa's pride and determination are clear in the set of her shoulders and the lift of her head, while Andres' questioning hand gestures look authentic. The apartment that Isa and Andres live in with their niece is lovingly detailed. And the pictures that accompany the niece's projects around her neighborhood show a nice cross-section of people and backgrounds.
Tia Isa Wants A Car celebrates family and hard work, and the bridging of old and new cultures. It would make a nice read-aloud for school or library storytime, particularly in schools with a significant Latino immigrant population. I like it!
Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: June 4, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Danielle Smith
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).