by Anika Denise
illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gómez
(Abrams, September 12, 2017)
Meet Carmen! She LOVES the spotlight and applause. She’s an actress, a singer, a dancer—a one-girl sensación! She exhausts her parents with her nightly performances and completely overshadows Eduardo, her adoring little brother. But when Eduardo shows his big sister how much he loves her in a way even Carmen can’t ignore, will Carmen realize that the stage is big enough for two?
Exuberant illustrations by Lorena Alvarez Gómez offer the perfect complement to Anika Denise’s warm, Spanish-sprinkled text in this celebration of theater, family, and imagination.
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“An attention-seeking young star of imaginative stage shows—all produced at home for her Latinx family members—learns that sharing the spotlight can be equally fulfilling.
Carmen is a whirlwind of many talents, a “one-girl sensación” who acts, sings, dances, and even costume-designs musicals every night for her supportive but slightly exhausted parents and star-struck little brother. When her parents call for an intermission on all the show-business activity, Carmen sulks. But when she sees her brother, Eduardo, previously cast in nonspeaking roles (“You can be a rock”), has his own imaginative ideas, Carmen decides that her productions can be even better as an ensemble. Smartly, the narrative depicts all Carmen’s activities as creative work; it’s not just about the performance, but also building and rehearsing. And her parents (dark-skinned mom and light-skinned dad) accommodate her dreams while also realistically hoping to enforce bedtime and make sure Eduardo doesn’t get left in the shadows. The art seems to leap off the page, turning Carmen’s stagecraft into magic, whether it’s colorful pirate seascapes or robot rock operas. The mix of detail between home decoration and wildly over-the-top costumes and props is well-balanced and rich.
For caregivers of extremely extroverted kids, Carmen’s ambitions will feel very familiar; for kid readers, Carmen and Eduardo’s very fun activities might inspire some musical productions at home.
“Starring CARMEN! written by Anika Denise with illustrations by Lorena Alvarez Gomez is in a word, exhilarating. This character’s passion for performing and positive perspective on life is contagious. Her propensity to stand in the spotlight alone is tempered by her love for her brother. Your patrons will be asking for this book frequently. They will hardly be able to wait for the promised sequel. I can’t wait to read this one aloud.”
—Margie Myers Culver, Librarian’s Quest