It's Christmas time and Maria's whole family will
be coming for a visit. She is feeling very grown-up as her mother lets her wear
some perfume and lipstick for the big celebration to come.
Making tamales is a family event. Maria and her parents are busy as Maria and her mother knead the masa and her father puts the tamales in
the pot to boil. Her mother slips her diamond ring off her finger to keep it
from getting messy and Maria can't help but slip it on her finger. Only later,
as Maria is sitting with her cousins, does she think about her mother's ring and it isn't on her finger!
Frantically searching, she comes to the conclusion
that the ring is inside a tamale! With the help of her cousins, they begin to
eat up all the tamales in a desperate search for the diamond ring. One is good,
two is okay, but by the third tamale each cousin is getting full. With all the
tamales eaten, Maria has only one choice left. She tearfully confesses what has
happened but as she is speaking, she sees the diamond sparkling on her mother's finger.
No one gets in trouble and Aunt Rosa speaks up and says they'll have to cook up another batch, "and so they do,
three generations laughing and working together" (Kirkus).
This lovely Christmas tale of a Mexican-American
families' celebration will resonate with many. The similarities between traditional
American Christmas traditions and this Mexican-American family are evidenced in the home with the tree, decorations, and busy
atmosphere preparing for a family visit. The Hispanic family tradition of making tamales, along with the
mouth watering illustrations depicting the mixing of the masa and steam coming from the pot as the tamales boil, demonstrate
this important Hispanic Christmas custom.
This picture book's beautiful oil illustrations
are painted in warm tones depicting snow falling outside, Christmas trees, gifts, and wreaths.
The entire family dressed up in their Christmas finery, coming together for this holiday celebration, reflects the importance
placed on family togetherness. The illustrator captures the children's expressions perfectly as they try to take
one more bite of tamale. Depictions of traditional Mexican pottery, and the packages
of masa, and manteca (lard), lend authenticity to this story.
Mr. Soto, a Chicano, says, "Although the
experiences in my stories, poems, and novels may seem autobiographical, much of what I write is the stuff of imagination". This book was named a Booklist "Books for Youth Editors' Choices of 1993" (Wilson).