By Aracelli Astorga
Papi's Gift, by Karen Stanton and illustrated by René King Moreno, tells the story of Graciela, a young girl who lives in a small, Latin American village with her mother and two brothers.
Because it has not rained in a very long time, Graciela's father has reluctantly left the family to find work in faraway California. Graciela's Papi phones the family once a week; the phone calls are a mixed blessing: the family is happy to hear from their father, but is left with sadness because Papi does not know when he can return.
During one particular Sunday phone call, Graciela receives some delightful news: Papi has sent her a package for her seventh birthday. It is all Graciela can think about! Every day, she eagerly awaits the delivery; every night, she dreams of the possibilities the package might hold.
Graciela's birthday comes and goes, and unfortunately, the package never arrives. Graciela is angry, disappointed, and hurt. With time, however, Graciela realizes that it is she who must give Papi a gift.
Papi's Gift is a heartwarming story. Although the book alludes to the subject of migrant workers, Stanton has clearly captured the true subject of the book: the emotions (sadness, loneliness, hope) involved when a parent must leave loved ones behind for the betterment of the family.
Moreno's illustrations, meant to look as if drawn by colored pencil, beautifully depict the simplicity of Graciela's world: her family, her home, her village. Papi's Gift leaves the reader with an appreciation of a parent's sacrifice.
Aracelli Astorga is a school librarian and part of the Review 'n Receive book review program.