Mora, Pat. 1992. A Birthday Basket for Tia. Ill. by Cecily Lang. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0027674002.
B. Plot Summary
Little Cecilia has happy memories of her great aunt, her Tia. On the occasion of her ninetieth birthday, Cecilia wonders what to give her Tia as a gift. With the help of her cat Chica, Cecilia puts together the perfect present: a basket of memories of all the love she has shared with her Tia.
C. Critical Analysis
A Birthday Basket for Tia is perfect for younger children in that the gift Cecilia presents to her Tia is representative of all Cecilia's memories of their times together. Younger children will be able to relate to an aunt or other older relative reading a book to them, making cookies together, growing flowers together, and playing outside.
Pat Mora has created warmth in the relationship between Cecilia and her aunt by describing how Cecilia helps to prepare for the surprise birthday party for Tia.
Language plays an important part in the story in that the name Tia is used for the great aunt and many terms for food are used. there is a little bit of "double-speak" used when some English is translated into Spanish when Cecilia says, "Ninety years old! Noventa anos!" or when Tia says," Que' pasa? What is this?" or when the guests all shout, "Feliz Cumpleanos! Happy Birthday!".
The illustrations demonstrate the Mexican-American family. All characters have darker skin tones and dark hair and eyes. A ;pinata is in the party and bright colors are used within the home.
Through it all the love and caring for family fill the story and is an emotion any small child can understand, Spanish or English.
D. Review Excerpts
Amazon.com Review Little Cecilia and her cat Chica plan for a surprise party to celebrate her great-aunt's 90th birthday. While Mama cooks beans and cuts up mangoes and watermelon, Cecilia and Chica put together a birthday basket containing a favorite book, a mixing bowl, a flowerpot, and other objects that represent activities the little girl and her great-aunt like to share. After final preparations, including flowers and a piñata, the musicians arrive; finally Cecilia and her great-aunt dance together. Drawing on the author's experiences in the Mexican American community of El Paso, Texas, this fine story is illustrated by Cecily Lang in a series of simple but striking scenes. A touching story about a very special relationship.
Publishers Weekly The young narrator of this poignant picture book discovers that the best gifts are not always store-bought. Cecilia is stumped when it comes to getting a present for her great aunt's 90th birthday. She finally settles on filling a basket with reminders of all the good times Tia and she have shared. A mixing bowl recalls days spent baking cookies; a teacup holds memories of the special brew Tia prepares when Cecilia is sick. The thoughtful present is a hit when Tia unveils it at her surprise party. Mora's text flows smoothly from one event to the next, and clearly presents the careful planning behind Cecilia's gift-gathering mission. Repetition of the items inside the basket and the occasional use of Spanish words are helpful reinforcements for young readers. Two cavils: Mora's text tends to go on a bit too long, and the many asides Cecilia addresses to her cat Chica become somewhat intrusive as the story progresses. Lang's cut-paper illustrations provide a vivid picture of a diverse and dynamic Mexican American family. Warm brown skin tones contrast nicely with bold reds, blues and oranges to lend additional Latin flavor.
For a writing activity have students write a paragraph about what items they would put into a surprise birthday basket for a favorite relative. Illustrate stories with baskets and items.