Maria is feeling so grown-up, wearing her mother's apron and helping to knead the masa
for the Christmas corn tamales. Her mother even let Maria wear some perfume and lipstick for the big family celebration that evening. When her mother takes off her diamond ring so it won't become coated with the messy masa, Maria decides that life would be perfect if she could wear the ring, too. Trouble begins when she sneakily slips the sparkly ring on her thumb and resumes her kneading. Uh oh. It is not until later that night, after all the tamales have been cooked and after all her cousins and relatives have arrived, that Maria suddenly realizes what must have happened to the precious ring. Ed Martinez's warm oil paintings celebrate the riches of South American Christmas colors--adobe reds, dusty gold, lacey whites, and rain-forest greens. Martinez also has a gift for capturing children's animated expressions, especially when Maria begs her cousins to help her find the missing ring by secretly eating the enormous stack of steaming tamales! Gary Soto's delightful Christmas-spirit closure will relieve young readers who empathize with the negligent Maria. Grown-ups, too, will appreciate this playful reminder about the virtues of forgiveness and family togetherness. (Ages 4 and older) --Gail Hudson
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From Publishers Weekly
Snow is falling, preparations for a family feast are underway and the air is thick with excitement. Maria is making tamales, kneading the masa and feeling grown-up. All she wants is a chance to wear her mother's diamond ring, which sparkles temptingly on the kitchen counter. When her mother steps away, Maria seizes her opportunity and dons the ring, then carries on with her work. Only later, when the tamales are cooled and a circle of cousins gathered, does Maria remember the diamond. She and the cousins search every tamale--with their teeth. Of course the ring turns out to be safely on Mom's finger. Soto, noted for such fiction as Baseball in April , confers some pleasing touches--a tear on Maria's finger resembles a diamond; he allows the celebrants a Hispanic identity without making it the main focus of the text--but overall the plot is too sentimental (and owes a major debt to an I Love Lucy episode). Martinez's sensuous oil paintings in deep earth tones conjure up a sense of family unity and the warmth of holidays. The children's expressions are deftly rendered--especially when they are faced with a second batch of tamales. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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