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A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia    by Julia Alvarez & Beatriz Vidal order for
Gift of Gracias
by Julia Alvarez
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

'"Maria!" her mother called up. "Do you see them?"' Maria is up on the roof looking for her father and Tanio Indian Quisqueya, who have taken a trip into the city. When Papa and Quisqueya return home, they bring 'a basket of golden fruit'. 'Oranges, like the ones your mother and I used to eat in Valencia, Spain', Papa tells Maria, who has never been to her parents' homeland.

The finca (olive) crops are not growing well, and Maria is saddened because the family might have to leave the farm. That night Maria has a very special dream in which she plants orange seeds in the ground. As she says the words 'muchas gracias', an abundance of trees 'burst out of the ground full of leafy branches heavy with oranges'. In her dream appears a lady wearing a crown and a robe twinkling with stars. Her name is 'Nuestra Seņora de la Altagracia'. Maria tells her parents and Quisqueya about her dream. Considering it a good sign, they plant orange seeds on their property. The trees grow well, and are laden with fruit. At the market, they sell many oranges, but Papa is not able to find a picture of the special lady from his daughter's dream, which she requested as a gift. Then, something very beautiful and magical happens ...

Beatriz Vidal uses small brushes and a magnifying glass in gouache to add unique definition to the illustrations, with expressive faces and ground opaque colors of orange and green. Vidal is also the author and illustrator of Federico and the Magi's Gift. Julia Alvarez grew up in the Dominican Republic, where Our Lady of Altagracia is said to have appeared in the 1500s. In About the Story, Alvarez tells its background. A Gift of Gracias is a quality read, from a quality author and illustrator - a lovely gift for the holidays. I can just picture little ones sitting in a circle, eagerly attentive to an appointed reader, expressively narrating the words and pictures from this heavenly book.

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