Too Many Tamales

author: Gary Soto 
illustrator: Ed Martinez
Putnam, 1993
preschool-grade 4 
Mexican American

Maria’s growing up. This year, she gets to help make the tamales for Christmas dinner. She even gets to wear her mom’s apron, lipstick and perfume. While Maria and her mom are kneading the masa for tamales, Maria notices that her mom has taken off her diamond ring and placed it on the counter so as not to get it coated with masa. You can probably guess what happens next. OK, I’ll tell you: Maria tries on the ring (just for a moment) and after two dozen tamales have been cooked, notices with horror that the ring is gone from her finger!

When her cousins arrive, Maria enlists them in searching for her mom’s ring, and to do so, they have to eat—too many tamales! Martinez’ oil paintings, on a subdued palette of mostly reds, browns, oranges and yellows, complement Soto’s delightfully warm story of family togetherness. And the pictures—of Maria and her wide-eyed cousins eating their way out of trouble—are priceless. Highly recommended.

—Beverly Slapin
(published 4/8/13)

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