A Gift from Abuela by Cecilia Ruiz

A Gift from Abuela 
Review Copy from Candlewick Press

Story: Abuela's heart "overflowed with tenderness" the moment she held her granddaughter Niña for the first time. The two spent a lot of time together singing, dancing and laughing. Abuela even taught Niña to make papel picado banners. But their favorite thing to do was spend Sunday in the park, eating pan dulce and watching the people pass by. Abuela decides to put aside twenty pesos every week to buy Niña something special, like a bicycle or a puppy, some day, saving her money in a flower pot on top of her refrigerator. As Niña grows older and goes to school, she and Abuela spend less time together. Life in Mexico gets harder and sometimes Abuela does not have extra pesos to add to the flower pot. And then the government changes the money, forcing people to turn in their old bills for new. One day, Niña realizes it has been a long time since she has seen Abuela and heads to her house, only to find it empty. Niña decides to surprise her and tidy up, which is when she finds the flower pot of old, worthless money. Returning home, Abuela's heart overflows with tenderness when she sees Niña, telling her that the money was supposed to be to buy something special for her. Undaunted, Niña shares her idea with Abuela. The final pages show the happy pair turning the worthless paper money into papel picado, then sharing pan dulce in the park.
Pictures: Ruiz's collage-like prints are evocative of the papel picado that Abuela and Niña love to make. Her muted, cool palette is pleasing and effective for the more challenging moments of the story. 
Why Read? Why Buy?: A Gift from Abuela is a lovely story of a grandparent-grandchild relationship and the passing on of traditions that also marvelous brings aspects of Mexican culture to the world of kid's books. It's also a great, simple exploration of how a child's relationship with a grandparent changes over time. I love Ruiz's illustrations and I especially love papel picados and am thrilled to see them at the center this story! Below are beautiful papel picados (and flowers) hand made by parent volunteers for the Fall Festival at the elementary school where I am the librarian. 

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