Grandma and Niña dance, sing, laugh, and eat pan dulce in the park together. But one day the child forgets about her grandmother as school and friends take precedence.
At the same time, the Mexican economy worsens, and suddenly the money Abuela has been saving for her granddaughter’s special gift is worthless. Niña visits after a long absence only to find Abuela not home. Seeing the stack of dirty dishes, the layer of dust, and overflowing trash bin, the young girl cleans the house. Spotting a spiderweb-draped clay pot on the fridge, she opens it to discover useless old pesos. When Abuela returns, she and Niña embrace, make papel picado out of the old bills, and eat pan dulce in the park. Ruiz’s simplistic story makes almost no sense from the beginning. No parents are ever in evidence, so many readers will assume that Abuela is Niña’s sole guardian. Then, suddenly, the girl lives somewhere else and no longer comes around—even though she lives close enough to visit on her own. Abuela puts away a paltry 20 pesos each week, but the jar is miraculously filled with large bills (these are collaged into the illustration). When Abuela no longer has extra money to set aside, she forgets about the jar and fails to exchange the contents for the new official currency. The disarray in which Abuela leaves her house will strike many as hard to believe.
Ruiz’s muted multimedia prints are charming; the story is not. (Picture book. 4-7)