cover image A Gift of Gracias

A Gift of Gracias

Julia Alvarez, , illus. by Beatriz Vidal. . Knopf, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-82425-8

Vidal's (Federico and the Magi's Gift ) finely detailed gouache paintings provide exquisite accompaniment to Alvarez's (The Secret Footprints ) retelling, a Dominican legend of a miracle performed by Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, "Our Lady of Thanks." The prose plants just enough magic to prepare readers for María's night visions and their magical results. When Papá returns from the city, he brings María oranges; as she tries one, she observes, "It tasted like a sweet sunrise." As they eat, María's father prepares her for the dismal prospect of moving to the city, since their farm is failing, but her father's friend, Quisqueya, whispers, "We will find a way to stay." María dreams that night: Quisqueya appears as her guide, urging her to "Say gracias," as she plants orange seeds in the ground. She does, and the seeds bloom into full-grown orange trees, and "a beautiful lady with golden skin and a crown of stars" appears. When María tells her family what she dreamed, they immediately plant orange seeds. Miracles follow—"in a matter of months, trees that would normally take years to grow yielded a large crop," and Quisqueya magically acquires a portrait of Our Lady of Altagracia. Vidal smoothly moves from the lushness of the orange grove and rolling hills to the dream sequences. Together, author and artist make dreams-come-true seem possible, as long as one remains grateful. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)