When Migeul's Tia Lola come from the Dominican Republic to Vermont to help out his mami, Miguel is worried that his unusual aunt will make it even more difficult to make new friends. It's been hard enough moving from New York City and leaving Papi behind. Sometimes he wishes Tia Lola would go back to the island.
But then he wouldn't have the treats she's putting in his lunch box, which he's sure helped him make the baseball team. And she really needs his help to learn English so she doesn't use all the words she knows at once: "One-way-caution-you're-welcome-thanks-for-asking."
So Miguel changes his wish to a new one, and he finally even figures out a clever way to make it come true.
This is a great book that deals with family relationships, dealing with divorce, struggling with moving, trying to make friends, and learning to be proud of yourself and your heritage. That's a lot for one little book to cover, but Alvarez juggles all these themes very well.
There is also a huge emphasis on Latin American culture, which was great! I lived with a Cuban American girl in college, and her bombastic personality and tendencies to dance to loud reggaeton in our living room was brought back to mind while reading this book. Tia Lola is a force to be reckoned with. Her enthusiasm and love of life is evident, whether she's speaking Spanish or English. She is an inspiration to us all to be ourselves, and to invite others into our happiness.
I'm a big fan of books that introduce Midwesterners to different cultures, and this one does that nicely. It also plays to fears and doubts that we all have, making it great for any reader at any age.
Four out of five pinatas.
Release Date: August 2002
Reading Level: Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM