Ten days until Christmas! As we truck on in our picture book countdown, I am delighted to bring yet another new book this year. I am beginning to realize I have a small obsession with this illustrator. It comes as a complete surprise to me as I don’t actively seek out her books; but every time I come across one, I fall madly in love. But it isn’t just the images here; this story is beautiful, heartwarming, familial, and a little tear-jerking. Come delight in another Christmas miracle that changes an apartment building and a whole community, all thanks to a special Puerto Rican Christmas roast. Here is Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, 2015.
The story begins with José who is decorating a tiny Christmas tree and running out of room for ornaments. He hears his mami yelling from the kitchen. He and his father run to discover that her special roast does not fit in the tiny oven. It was the last straw for his mother who always got homesick for Puerto Rico at Christmas. Everything is too tiny there, “Small kitchen. Small apartment. Small everything.” José tries to cheer her with a joke and suggests they need a pizza oven. But it turns out to be a perfect solution. He and his papi box up the roast and head down to the pizzeria.
On the way they run into several neighbors, all of whom are having a terrible Christmas Eve. Some have no family coming home, some have too much family at home, some are afraid of the world, some are hating their wintery chores, and others are just plain fighting. Christmas Eve looks dreadful for the whole building.
José and his father reach the pizzeria to gladly find it empty, though the owner isn’t thrilled at its desertedness. The roast takes three hours to cook and when it is finished, “The aroma seemed to lift José to his feet and wrap itself around all of them like a scarf. There was nothing left to do but hug.”
José’s father invites the pizzeria owner home with them and they drift off with the heavenly scent. On the way, the entire building of neighbors has a miraculous change of tone and follows the roast up to their apartment. Their mother feels like home with the scent and immediately invites all to join the feast. Christmas Eve was perfect, for everyone.
Oh, I love this book. The writing is so beautiful in description and pacing. It is almost poetic. I was delighted to discover on the jacket flap that author Sonia Manzano is none other Maria from Sesame Street! She was one of the first Hispanic characters on the show and is on the writing staff as well as penning several picture books. Her storytelling is excellent. I love the community feel that comes through the story. And I love that it is indeed a roast that plays the hero!
And to go on about the illustrations, I am not sure how to describe Marjorie Priceman’s incredible talent. Her work is done in gouache and ink and has such an emotive feel to it. It is expressive without being too loose. I also love how vibrant and strong her color palettes are, another aspect that evokes such emotion. The whole book is just plain lovely and a great Christmas miracle! Please go check this one out. You will love it!
See you tomorrow as we get closer to Christmas day in our 25 Days of Christmas Picture Books!