Julia Alvarez: official author website
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The Best Gift of All:
The Legend of La Vieja Belén

El mejor regalo del mundo: la leyenda de La Vieja Belén

a bilingual book
by Julia Alvarez
with translation by Rhina Espaillat
(Santillana/Alfaguara Infantil, Bilingual edition, November 2008)
The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén/El mejor regalo del mundo: la leyenda de La Vieja Belén
see this book on
or get an autographed copy at
Middlebury College Bookstore
or Vermont Book Shop

La Vieja Belén is a legendary figure that only exists in the Dominican Republic. She comes on the Sunday after the Three Kings (January 6, Epiphany), bringing a simple gift only to poor children. Ever since I was a child, I've been intrigued by this old woman. Why was she doing this? Who was she? How did she get started? No one could tell me. Now, more and more, this munificent figure is disappearing from the Dominican panorama. Many Dominican children have never heard of La Vieja Belén, and needless to say, many Dominican-American and American kids haven't either. She has been eclipsed by Santa Claus and the onslaught of consumer culture. So, I decided to bring her back. As I set out to write about her, I couldn't find any answers to my childhood questions, so I made them up-- in verse! The best gift of all for me came when my publisher, Santillana/Alfaguara Infantil, decided to do a bilingual edition, English text and Spanish translation below, AND one of my favorite poets, Rhina Espaillat, who is a truly bilingual and a Dominicana-Americana to boot, agreed to do the translation. We were joined by a third Dominicano, Ruddy Nuñez, whose wonderful illustrations capture la viejita's mythical world. So there is a lot of D.R. power packed in this storybook! I hope you feel inspired by La Viejita Belén and keep her spirit alive, and not just on holidays!

Maria Hinojosa read The Best Gift of All on Latino USA for the holidays -- click to listen.

Julia Alvarez as la Vieja Belén telling the story of la Vieja Belén to the children.
Vieja Belén tells her story,
December 2010
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More Books by Julia Alvarez

A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia -- a Knopf Book for Young Readers by Julia Alvarez -- click for book summary
A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia
The Secret Footprints: a picture book for Young Readers by Julia Alvarez -- click for book summary
The Secret Footprints
Once Upon A Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA by Julia Alvarez
Once Upon A Quinceañera

Autographed Books by Julia Alvarez

Would you like a signed -- or personalized -- copy of one of Julia's books? Simply call or email one of her two local bookstores -- or stop in for a visit.

Vermont Book Shop
38 Main Street, Middlebury, Vermont

Middlebury College Store
58 Hepburn Road, Middlebury, Vermont
Contact Georgia Best

And, of course, Julia would love to see you at one of her upcoming appearances. To see if she will be in your town, check her calendar.


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