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A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia…

A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia

by Julia Alvarez

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A Gift of Gracias is about a young girl whose family's farm is not thriving. The family is almost forced to move. However, after a dream of Our Lady of Altagracia, Maria determines a plan to save the family farm. By planting orange trees and selling the crops, she is able to secure the well-being of her family and gives thanks to Altagracia.

The illustrations are made with gouache.

GENRE: Legend (story of a young hero that is rooted in cultural history of the Virgin Mary and the town of Higuey where she was said to have appeared)

- present a multicultural perspective and discuss the connection the author had to the story
- have students write their own stories about the power of saying thank you, potentially tying in other ways to say "thank you" in different languages
  sso14 | Feb 6, 2016 |
This is a story about a Spanish family who had moved from Spain. Their crops were not doing well and they were thinking about having to sell the farm and move to the city. The daughter Maria has a dream one night about how to save the farm. The next day the family plants orange trees. The trees grew remarkably fast and produced an abundance. Maria gave thanks to the lady in her dream and asked her father to bring her back a picture of the lady from the market. Her father couldn't find a picture, but her grandfather brought back a quilt with a lady painted on it who he had seen in the sky. This lady was the same one Maria had seen. The family gave thanks to the lady for their orange crop. ( )
  kvelin | Mar 10, 2015 |
Based upon legends of Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia (Our Lady of Thanks), the patron saint of the Dominican Republic, Julia Alvarez's A Gift of Gracias tells the story of young Maria, whose family are newly settled on the island. When the olive crops fail, and things look so bleak that her family may have to leave their farm, Maria dreams of a beautiful woman with "golden skin and a crown of stars," and is inspired to suggest that they begin planting oranges...

I enjoyed Alvarez's well-paced narrative, although I couldn't help feeling somewhat skeptical about the seemingly harmonious presence of Quisqueya, the old Indian who lives with Maria's Spanish settler-family. I'm certainly no expert on the history of Hispanolia, but I do recall from my college reading that the indigenous Taino population were either exterminated or reduced to slavery by the Spaniards, and that all those who could escape and hide, did so. This is a historical reality that Alvarez herself references, in her afterword to another of her picture books based on Dominican folklore, The Secret Footprints. I understand and respect her position that Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia belongs to Dominicans of every background (and to the wider world), but somehow the inclusion of the "happy" Quisqueya felt like a whitewashing of an unpleasant aspect of Dominican history.

That said, I was simply delighted to encounter Beatriz Vidal - illustrator of Verna Aardema's marvelous Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain A Nandi Tale - again, and found her luminous artwork here immensely appealing. Well worth a look, especially for those interested in the folklore of the Dominican Republic and her patron saint. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 15, 2013 |
I like that giving thanks can change your perspective and attitude toward what could be a negative situation. ( )
  kjarthur | Aug 11, 2010 |
Alvarez, Julia. (2005) A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia. Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
This story is about a girl named Maria whose family is having a hard time because their farm was not producing enough harvest. Her father and a family friend decide to go into town to see what could be done to help them and they meet a merchant who gives them a basket of oranges. Maria has a dream where Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia (Our Lady of Thanks) appears to be in an orange orchard and she realizes that these oranges are the key to their future. She tells her father the next morning and they plant orange seeds and in a few months, their orchards are full of oranges ready to be sold at the market.
What makes this traditional story unique is the history behind it. At the end, there is included a brief history behind the virgin that appears in the story. It is a virgin that is highly revered in the Dominican Republic and the author feels a connection to the virgin because she was told about her as a little girl. She chooses to write this story as a way to continue to honor her. ( )
  cacv78 | Jul 17, 2010 |
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Series (with order)
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Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For La Virgencita de la Altagracia, thank you and gracias for all your blessings! - J.A.
This one is for Morgan, my dearest goddaughter. - B.V.
First words
"Maria!" her mother called up. "Do you see them?"
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375824251, Hardcover)

After their olive crop fails, Maria fears that her family will have to abandon their farm on the new island colony. Then, one night she dreams of a mysterious beautiful lady shrouded by trees with branches hung with hundreds of little suns. They are oranges like the ones Maria's parents once ate in their homeland, Valencia, Spain. That very day Maria and her family plant the seeds that soon yield a magnificent orange grove and save the farm. But who was the mysterious lady who appeared in her dream and will Maria ever find her again?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Maria's family is almost forced to leave their farm on the new island colony, until a mysterious lady appears in Maria's dream.

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