The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belen
A bilingual picture book
Written by Julia Alvarez (author) and Ruddy Nunez (illustrator)
Translated by Rhina Espaillat
For those who try to teach diversity by sharing customs, holidays and traditions to children, The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belen is a welcome addition.
La Vieja Belen is an old woman from the Dominican Republic who brings gifts to poor children on the Sunday after the Feast of the Three Kings. Tradition says that the Vieja Belen keeps busy cleaning and serving guests. When the Three Kings stop at her house, she feeds them traditional foods including empanadas, fruit, and tamales. The story concludes with the acknowledgement that the best gift of all is the gift of time which is such an important concept in this age of consumerism.
I am always on the lookout for bilingual books and the rhyming text in The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belen works when read aloud in both Spanish and English. The soft illustrations portray an authentic home in the Dominican Republic.
Author Julia Alvarez (one of my favorite authors) shares how the tradition of La Vieja Belen is becoming overshadowed by commercialism and why she set out to write this book here.
You might also enjoy this youtube video showing the celebration of La Vieja Belen in the Dominican Republic.
If you are participating in my Read Around the World Challenge, La Vieja Belen can be used in a number of categories. And yes, you can use a book more than once.