A good choice for older picture book readers is A Doll for Navidades, in which author Esmeralda Santiago portrays a memory from her childhood in Puerto Rico. The setting is lush, filled with hummingbirds, hibiscus and gardenias a great place to visit on a cold winter's night. Santiago's writing is rich and evocative, bringing to life the details of the tropics. The story shows many of her family's customs, supplemented with a glossary at the end that explains the Spanish words and traditions. You can nearly smell the sweet kitchen aromas, for instance, when Santiago writes: Mami made arroz con dulce, which tasted sweet and coconutty and had sticks of cinnamon that we sucked on for a long time. Spoiler alert: this is one Christmas story that does not have a happy ending! Seven-year-old Esmeralda has never had a doll, and that's all she wants, one like her cousin Jenny's. In fact, that's what both she and her younger sister, Delsa, hope to get from the Three Magi this region's equivalent to Santa Claus. Sadly for Esmeralda, it is Delsa who ends up with the coveted doll, while Esmerelda gets a board game for a big girl. Delsa kindly asks her sister to be godmother or madrina, to the doll, and Esmerelda makes peace with her disappointment. A Doll for Navidades offers many discussion points for readers, including Spanish customs, the spirit of giving and receiving, and, finally, disappointment.
Alice Cary has been spotted in several New England malls humming her own versions of Christmas carols.