Poor harvests in the Dominican Republic have left the country's farmers desperate. Marie's papa is on a trip to market in the city to sell their goods and he has promised to return with a gift for his young daughter. In the morning, the first thing Maria sees, besides her papa sitting at the table, is a basket of golden fruit, "oranges" like those in Valencia, Spain, her parents' homeland. Worried about having to leave the family farm for the city, Maria has a dream, trees bursting out of the ground, heavy with oranges, a beautiful lady with a crown of stars standing in the grove, Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia, Our Lady of Thanks. Because of Maria's dream, her family plants orange seeds on their land, seeds that "sprouted into shoots that grew into trunks that spread into branches filled with oranges that glowed like little suns." The family's income is secured, guided by devotion to Our Lady of Thanks, whose image is the inspiration for this retelling of the Dominican folktale.
In the author's afterward, Alvarez speaks of the legend of the Lady's appearance in the early 1500's, when the island was still a colony of Spain, her saint's day, January 21, a national holiday. In her modern retelling of a beloved tale, the Alvarez illustrates the power of faith and the natural expressions of gratitude, Our Lady at home with the people in the fields under the stars, the orange trees spreading their bounty throughout the land. With its lush illustrations, this charming story brings to life the beliefs of the past as they are still embraced today: "Our Lady of Thanks, like Mother Earth, really belongs to all of us." Luan Gaines/ 2006.