Lights, Camera, Carmen! by Anika Denise, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gómez
Lights, Camera, Carmen!
by Anika Denise, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gómez
Review Copy from AbramsKids
In Starring Carmen! (which, sadly, I missed when it came out in fall of 2017) Denise and Gómez introduced a vibrant "one girl sensación" who loves to perform, drawing her parents and little brother into her creative expression, exhausting as it may be, from the sets to the rehearsals to the production. In Lights, Camera, Carmen!, the action shifts from stage to screen.
Carmen is a force of nature, with her little brother Eduardo as her happily willing assistant when she decides to enter a cereal contest showing the world how she eats her Dino-Krispies. When an attempt at a showstopper (turning the cereal into a smoothie) ends badly, she turns her positive mindset to something new. When the winner of the contest is finally announced, Carmen has to deal with disappointment and maybe even a little jealousy when Eduardo is chosen to be the face of the "How Do You Eat YOUR Dino-Krispies" campaign. With the support of her parents, she works through her emotions and even finds a new career path - agent.
There are SO MANY things I love about Carmen, Let's start with the fact that she and her family are Latinx, with Denise and Gómez integrating this seamlessly into the story without making it the story. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text with Gómez, who lives in Colombia, filling her illustrations with rich patterns and exuberant colors. Gómez, who also writes and illustrates stunning graphic novels (see below), is an amazing illustrator. Her characters, with their big eyes, pink noses and colorful hair, are cinematic and surprisingly expressive. Every page is generously packed with details and a riot of colors, from potted houseplants and refrigerator magnet, to bowls of fruit and stuffed toys. And then there is Carmen herself (and, to be fair, her parents.) Carmen is a creative force of nature and a marvelous example of execution of these ideas, from start to finish, as well as a positive response to failure. The fact that her parents both support and step back (they are not helicopter, or even snowplow, parents) is invaluable for readers to see on the page. And, last but not least, it's great to see the sibling relationship that is a working partnership, with ups and downs.
But really, at the end of the day, Carmen - and Eduardo - are just fun to hang out with. I hope there is one (or two?) more escapades in their future...
Also by Anika Denise:
More from Lorena Alvarez Gómez
And the sequel! Review coming soon...