TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER: 'Tia Isa' teaches kids the benefits of saving money

The other day, while you were playing outside, you found something small on the ground. It wasn't much, just a penny.

There's not a lot you can do with a penny anymore. It's not enough to buy candy or gum and it takes bunches of them to buy a toy. Even more for a new video game.

But your abuelita always says you should save your money for a rainy day and since a penny is money, you put it away. You've always wondered what rain has to do with anything, but, oh, well.

In the new book "Tia Isa Wants a Car" by Meg Medina, illustrated by Claudio Munoz, a little girl learns that her pennies can take her anywhere, no matter what the weather.

More than anything, Tia Isa wants a car.

She says so after work, when she gets home from the bakery. It should be a green car, the color of foamy water on the beach. That color would remind Tia Isa of the ocean that lapped outside her bedroom window when she was a little girl. Maybe she should get a car with wings in the back, like sea gulls.

Tia Isa wants a car, but Tio Andres laughs at her. The family's not rich, he reminds her. Besides, she's got more to worry about, like cooking dinner for him. Tia Isa tries to ignore him, but she knows that cars are expensive and that most of her money must be sent back home to Mami and Papi.

But Tia Isa wants a car and her mind's made up. She speaks to the man who sells cars, but he tells her that she doesn't have enough cash. She says they'll have some soon, but "soon" can take forever.

Still, there are always other ways. Senor Leo might have a few odd jobs he'd pay her to finish. La vieja Maria might need someone to help feed her windowsill cats. Miss Amy at la biblioteca has been asking for espanol lessons.

Tia Isa wants a car, but she's getting sad. Why does saving money take so long? Will she ever have enough to vamos on her own four wheels?

She might -- with just a little help.

Like most of us, kids enjoy getting new possessions. And like many of us, they have a hard time saving up for a big want. What they'll see in this book just might inspire them, though.

"Tia Isa Wants a Car" tells the cute story of doing something difficult to fulfill a dream, even though it takes a long time. I loved the way author Meg Medina gives her little heroine a can-do attitude in helping her Tia, along with the satisfaction of seeing her efforts make a difference.

The illustrations by Claudio Munoz are wonderfully expressive, further allowing the love between Tia and sobrina shine through.

Little spendthrifts ages 3 to 7 will want to save time to hear this story read aloud. For them, "Tia Isa Wants a Car" is a good book, rain or shine.

"Tia Isa Wants a Car" by Meg Medina, illustrated by Claudio Munoz, copyright 2011 by Candlewick Press, is 32 pages and sells for $15.99.