Written by Marie Hall Ets & Aurora Labastida, Illustrated by Marie Hall Ets
Puffin Books, 1959
Awards: Caldecott Medal
Christmas was coming. Ceci knew, for all the children were talking about it.
The plot in a nutshell: A little girl in Mexico prepares for her first posadas.
Ceci is in kindergarten, which means she is old enough to stay up for the special Christmas party (or posadas) and she is very excited, especially when her mother takes her to the market to pick out her first piñata. There are lots of different types and they all seem to call to her, but she chooses a gold one shaped like a star. Her mother tells her it’s a good choice, symbolizing the star that lead the wise men to Jesus. Her mother fills the piñata with fruit and candy and her brother hangs it in a tree on their patio. At the big party, Ceci stands behind a tree and won’t watch them break her special piñata. But after it’s broken, she hears a star calling to her from the sky and it says that it was her piñata, who became a real star because it was chosen for her first posada.
Author/illustrator Marie Hall Ets collaborated with Aurora Labastida to write this story of a little girl’s first time being old enough to participate in the traditional Las Posadas celebration activities. Ms. Labastida provided the details about her experiences growing up in urban Mexico and Ms. Hall Ets used those details to add authenticity into Ceci’s fictional story. Part of my family heritage is Mexican, so I knew about the Las Posadas traditions, but I think the story could be easily followed by those who are completely unfamiliar with them. I loved how Ceci was written as curious and eager, with such a love and excitement for her first piñata that she couldn’t bear to watch it get destroyed.
The artwork looks to have been done with pencil and charcoal, mostly in shades of gray, but with color accents throughout. The book is over fifty years old and the illustrations, while showing their age, capture the spirit of Mexico and its culture at this point in its history. This would be a great book for introducing these holiday traditions to your child, since you get to see it all unfold through Ceci’s eyes.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the holidays are full of tradition and magic.