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Multicultural Literature
Too Many Tamales
Home
Yangsook Choi: Biography
Yangsook Choi: Bibliography
Yangsook Choi: Book Analysis
The Thief Lord
This Same Sky
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
The Eleventh Hour: Curious Mystery
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
M.C. Higgins, the Great
Goin' Someplace Special
Locomotion
Too Many Tamales
Pablo Remembers
My Name is Maria Isabel
Pablo's Tree
The Great Ball Game
Buffalo Woman
Morning Girl
The Mud Pony: A Traditional Skidi Pawnee Tale
Jingle Dancer
The Name Jar
Tree of Cranes
Good Luck Gold: And Other Poems
The Magic Paintbrush
Habibi
Ella Enchanted
Silent Lotus
Real Heroes

Soto, Gary.  1993.  Too many tamales.  Illustrated by Ed Martinez.
     New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.  ISBN:  0399221468.

 

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).

Kirkus reviews.  1993.  Available  from http://amazon.com.
     Accessed 30 June 04.
 
Wilson, Etta.  1998.  Gary Soto--A Mexican-American voice that speaks
     for all.  Available  from 
     Accessed 30 June 04.