“Isa, this package came for you.” Mamãe sets a box in front of my cereal bowl.
“It’s from Vó Ziza,” I say. My granny, Ziza, lives in Brazil, far away from our family in Miami.
Carefully, I open the package, so the bird stamps won’t get ruined.
Mamãe reads the note in English. “Cara Isadora, I bought these sandálias for you. The children in Brazil wear them everywhere.One day I hope you’ll come to Brazil. Amor, Vó Ziza.”
I tell Mamãe, “I’ll name the left one Lucia, and the right one Roberto.” Those are the names of my two primos, cousins, who live in Brazil. I’ve only seen their pictures.
“These sandálias look like you, Isa. The light brown sole matches your skin, and the green flower matches your eyes.”
In school, Miss Kim says, “No sandals, Isadora. Shoes must cover toes.”
“You can’t jump rope in those,” says my friend Jubilee. “You’ll trip big time!”
“Ay, Isa,” says Mamãe at bath time. “Not in the banho.”
“My sandálias are perfect for the beach,” I tell Dad, as he tucks me in.
“That’s true,” he says.
“And tomorrow’s Saturday,” I say.
“Also true,” says Dad.
At the beach, I unpack our snacks; suco de maracusá, passion juice, and bagels with cream cheese.
“Just to the ankles,” says Dad, as I head to the water.
I draw wet sand letters: L for Lucia, and R for Roberto. Up and down the shore I flap my arms like a seagull. My feet feel funny. Roberto is on my right foot, but nothing on my left!
“Lucia!” The ocean is carrying her away. I follow.
“Isa,” Dad calls.
CRASH! A wave knocks me on my bottom. Before another one comes, I stand.
Dad picks me up. He frowns. “You need to follow the rules when we’re at the ocean.”
“But I lost Lucia! I’ve got to find her!” My cheeks sting from tears and sticky sand.
Dad wraps a towel around me. “It’s time to go. You’re shivering.”
“Will I still be like the children in Brazil if I only have one sandália?” I ask Mamãe before bed.
“You are Brazilian like me, and American like Dad. You are Isadora, even with no sandálias.” She tickles my feet, but I don’t laugh.
Roberto sleeps next to my pillow, so he won’t get lonely.
In the morning, I pack juice, and Bolo de Aipim, Brazilian tapioca cake, in a basket.
“To the beach?” Dad yawns.
“Isa, don’t get your hopes up.”
While I wait for Dad, I go outside and tell Jubilee what happened.
“That ocean’s big,” says Jubilee. “Good luck finding her.”
At the beach, Dad looks into my eyes. “What are the rules?”
I tap my ankle with the side of my hand.
The seaweed makes a rotten egg smell. I check under each slimy clump. Flies buzz, and a seagull squawks pecking at a little brown boat. Three sandpipers zigzag and scurry over to see what all the fuss is about. A sloshy wave flips the boat over. But it’s not a boat.
“Lucia!” The birds scatter. I pluck her up. The green flower’s gone, but she still fits.
“Look who came home!” says Dad.
In the car, I pretend Lucia and Roberto are talking.
“Was the ocean cold?”
“Yes, but a seagull flew me to shore.”
Mamãe opens our front door. “I guess Lucia didn’t float to Brazil, but we’ll take her there soon.”
“To Brazil? When?”
I jump into Mamãe’s arms. Finally, I’ll meet my cousins; maybe even see real birds that look like Brazilian stamps.
“Boa notte, Isa. Sweet dreams,” Mamãe tucks me in.
The whoosh of the ocean comes through my window. It’s the same ocean that reaches all the way to Brazil. I close my eyes and think about the summer. My cousins will laugh when they hear the names of my sandálias. We’ll play in Vó Ziza’s house, then slip off our sandálias, and run barefoot together on the Brazilian sand.
It’s incredibly difficult to write a compelling picture book text, and this one is gorgeous. Every word is carefully chosen for maximum effect, as the author weaves exquisite imagery, charming dialogue, and a child’s-eye view of the world. Just lovely.
—Katherine Applegate, 2014 Katherine Paterson Prize Judge