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A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia…
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A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia

by Julia Alvarez

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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 |
CARD MADE
  holyfamilywishlist | Apr 29, 2009 |
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Dedication
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.
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"Maria!" her mother called up. "Do you see them?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:16 -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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