A Night of Tamales & Roses is at its simplest, a story of stage fright. It is also the story of little Ana Luisa, whose big sister Silvia is going to marry handsome Edward. Ana Luisa’s Abuelita (Grandmother) has been busy sewing both the bridal gown and a very special dress for Luisa who is to be the Flower Girl.
Luisa’s mother, grandmother and sister have been making tamales with sweet smelling spices that fill the house with the magical scent of what is to take place the next day. Luisa, dressed in a t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes has practiced her part and at the rehearsal she steps exactly as she had been told. But on the day of the wedding, in addition to wearing the beautiful dress with roses sewn into its straps, Luisa would be wearing brand new white shoes and she would carry a basket of rose pedals to toss perfectly to either side of her as she walks down the aisle.
The ceremony is to take place in the family’s back yard, decorated especially for the wedding. But on the morning of the wedding, when all the chairs arrive and are put into place, Ana Luisa is stunned. With all those chairs, the aisle she is to walk down is much longer than the aisle at the rehearsal. When she sees how many guests are arrive, for the first time, she realizes they will all be watching her. She is afraid and a little sick to her stomach as she runs to the spot where she is to start. Ana Luisa trips and falls. Her arm is scraped, the rose petals are scattered and her brand new white shoes have ugly brown scuff marks.
What parent or grandparent reading this story to a little girl would not feel Ana Luisa’s panic. How many times in our own lives have we felt the very same emotion, even as adults. Ana Luisa’s family desperately try to persuade her to walk down the aisle. What will happen if she cannot do it? Will she ever be forgiven?
Author Joanna Kraus has not taken the easy way out, and in so doing Luisa learns the truest meaning of family. The story’s beautiful strength is brought to life in the illustrations of Elena Caravela. When Luisa hugs her Abuelita after seeing her new dress, our eyes are drawn to the arms of the grandmother as she hugs her granddaughter. These are strong loving arms. Caravela’s illustrations are as moving and powerful as Kraus’ words. A Night of Tamales & Roses is exactly why picture books are important.