Guest blogger Emily Calkins reviews this tender picturebook’s intimate audio version:
Matt de la Peña narrates his second collaboration with illustrator Christian Robinson, a sweet story about a girl accompanying her brother on errands and decided what wish to make on a dandelion she’s picked. It’s not a sequel to their Newbery Award and Caldecott Honor winning The Last Stop on Market Street, but it shares that book’s ethos. Like Market Street, Carmela focuses a tender relationship between family members and includes details that reveal the characters’ difficult circumstances (“imagining her dad getting his papers fixed so that he could finally be home”) and their working class neighborhood without making poverty the story’s central concern. Instead, it focuses on a young birthday girl and her many wishes.
De la Peña matches the gentle tone of the text with his performance. His narration is subtle and straightforward, without distinct voices or dramatic changes in pitch, tone or pace. That’s not to say his performance lacks emotion or interest, just that it’s an intimate reading that’s more like sharing a book with a single child instead of the animated delivery required in a storytime. The production eschews the background effects (street noise, water, music, traffic, etc.) that are often included in picture book audios, especially those with urban settings. Overall, it’s an inviting but understated audiobook and a lovely interpretation of de la Peña and Robinson’s work, which is sweet without ever becoming overly sentimental.
Carmela Full of Wishes, by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson, and read by Matt de la Peña, 6 minutes, Listening Library, 2018.
Emily Calkins is the Readers’ Services Program Coordinator at the King County Library System. Emily reviews for Audiofile and currently a member of RUSA. She served two years on YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults. She co-hosts KCLS’ podcast, The Desk Set, and whenever people ask how she reads so much, she tells them that she listens to most of her books. Catch her on Twitter @emily_calkins