Booklist starred (July 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 21))
Grades 1-3. When Isabel moves from Mexico to Michigan with her parents and older brother, she leaves behind a beloved aunt, who has been teaching her English. In a series of letters to “Dear Auntie Lupita,” Isabel practices her new language as she writes about starting school, playing outside after a surprise snowfall, and helping her mother cook for children’s birthday parties. Isabel uses discarded boxes to makes her own cozy “quiet place” of safety and, eventually, creativity. After celebrating her birthday with her family and new friends, Isabel’s happiness shines from the letter she writes. A final foldout spread, showing Isabel and her friends enjoying her now not-so-quiet special place, brims with lively details for children to enjoy. Set in the 1950s, the book contains expressive mixed-media artwork that includes many period elements, while the story is timeless in its depiction of a child slowly adjusting to a new home and a new language. The inventive illustrations, including several wordless spreads, define spaces in a creative variety of ways, from a revealing scene showing Isabel within the broader neighborhood to a more intimate view of the child inside her quiet place. A moving, memorable portrayal of one child’s immigrant experience.