By Erin Fanning
Scholastic Scope • NOVEMBER 2014
AS YOU READ,
What makes a gift valuable?
he present’s wrapping paper crinkled in
my hands. I shook it, but the box remained
silent—not even a revealing thud. I wouldn’t
have heard it anyway, what with Juan, my
baby brother, wailing from Tía Lupe’s arms, and Papá
singing along to Tío Jaime’s mariachi band.
“Ana, hurry. Abuela’s watching us.” My cousin Consuela nodded at the present. “Could
it be a phone?”
“It’s the right size.” I looked around. My grandmother winked at me from the other
side of the patio. She wagged a finger then took a forkful of tamale, catching a scoop of
The first paragraph is
packed with details.
What mood do these
shredded pork and popping it into her mouth just before it dropped to her lap. Behind
her, a table swelled with frijoles, tortillas, and pollo en mole. The smell of its chocolate
sauce drifted across the patio. How many times had I helped Abuela chop the garlic,
onions, and other ingredients that went into the dish? I knew her kitchen—the dried
Getty Images/iStockphoto.com (Teen); Shutterstock (Mariachi, Chili); iStockPhoto.com (Black Beans); Ewen Cameron/Getty Images (Chandelier)
peppers hanging from the ceiling and Abuela’s recipe book propped up against mixing
bowls—better than my own bedroom.
In the center of this food mountain sat my Quinceañera cake. Red-frosting flowers
cascaded down one side of the four tiers, and a figurine woman with black hair and a
white gown, nestled on top.
What does the word
“swelled” tell you
about the state of the
The colors of the doll’s hair and dress matched my own, but I didn’t feel as elegant
as she looked. And I certainly didn’t feel like a woman, even though that’s what the
celebration was all about—my “coming of age,” as Papá said: my 15th birthday, La
I longed to ditch the frilly dress, let down my hair, and throw on boots and jeans. I’d
then saddle up my mare, Esperanza, and ride out into the desert surrounding our house.
Instead, I was stuck as the center of attention.
“I’m sorry your Quinceañera had to be so, you know . . .” Consuela blushed and fiddled
with a bow on her dress. “I don’t mean it’s a bad party.”
For a second, I felt a shiver of resentment, remembering Consuela’s Quinceañera—the
banquet hall, chandeliers, and gleaming dance floor. My anger, though, vanished when
I saw the embarrassment on her face. “It’s OK. If Papá hadn’t lost his job, then maybe it
What does this
detail tell you about
Ana and Abuela’s
means grandmother in
would be different. But I really don’t care.”
The presents, of course, helped. And if one of those boxes contained a phone, then my
life would be complete. I’d no longer be one of those losers at school without one.
“You’re too young,” was Papá’s reply when I asked for one.
Mamá, though, told me the real reason. “Too much money.”
I picked up another box. “Consuela, watch for Mamá just a little while longer. She’ll be
mad if she catches me going through these.”
I turned around. Consuela was texting away as usual.
“Oh, sorry,” she said. “It’s a mess—”
Mamá clapped her hands. “Time to open the gifts.”
Do you believe Ana?
Why or why not?
scope.scholastic.com • NOVEMBER 2014
Everyone wandered over to us. Even Esperanza, ears pricked up, trotted to the corral
fence. All eyes watched me as I opened present after present—turquoise earrings, midnightblue cowboy boots, lip gloss—but no phone.
I tried to push away my disappointment, but it gripped me as tightly as Papá lassoing
a calf. When the last present, a flat box without a card, was placed in my hands, I knew I
Why might the author
have chosen this
wouldn’t be getting what I wanted. I yanked the paper off and opened the lid. Abuela’s recipe
book rested in a bed of tissue paper. “Recetas” was written across the cover in a spidery
scrawl. I’d seen it about a million times, usually surrounded by pots and pans.
“Why?” My voice must have captured my confusion, because Mamá frowned.
“Hija, a little gratitude,” she hissed. Louder, she added, “A family tradition. The libro de
recetas goes from grandmother to granddaughter on her Quinceañera.”
What can you infer
Abuela is feeling at
Jaime and his band singing “De Niña a Mujer” drowned her out. It was time for another
tradition—a dance with Papá. He bowed and led me to a clear space on the patio. I caught a
glimpse of Abuela, her shoulders slumped, shuffling to a chair.
Papá tripped on a patio stone and stumbled. “Your old Papá is a little stiff,” he said.
“I’m not exactly Señorita Suave.”
It wasn’t only my feet, though, that lacked smoothness. My heart felt brittle too. Papá
twirled me around, and I glimpsed Abuela leaning back in her chair. She sank into the
shadows, and her face disappeared into a streaky gray smudge, as if it were being erased.
I held back a tear.
Other dancers joined us when the song ended. Mamá cursed me with her eyes, but Lupe
What does this
about the way Ana is
saved me when she dumped Juan into Mamá’s arms.
The libros de recetas sat where I’d left it on a love seat. I flopped down and opened it
to the first page. Smeared ink read, “1881, Guadalajara, Juanita Alvarez”: my great-great
grandmother. Flipping through the book, I stopped when I recognized Abuela’s handwriting.
I whispered some of the ingredients.“Canela, azúcar, caramelo.” It sounded like poetry.
The setting sun flamed across the patio. Papá twirled Mamá, her arms encircling Juan,
and Jaime serenaded Lupe. Consuela texted from the porch, unaware that Manuel, a friend
from school, was giving her a lovesick look.
“¿Te gusta?” Abuela said from behind me.
Her dress billowed around her as she joined me on the loveseat. When had she lost so
much weight? I scooted closer, remembering how her knees creaked when she kneeled at
Mass that morning.
“I like it very much. Will you teach me some of Juanita’s recipes?”
She smiled, her black eyes disappearing into the wrinkles in her face. “I teach you
everything I know.”
I ran my fingers across the leather cover, tracing the word “Recetas.” It may not have been
a cell phone, but it spoke to me all the same.
Consider this proverb: “Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have.” What
does this mean? How does it apply to the story? Answer both questions; use text evidence. Send your
response to ABUELA CONTEST. Five winners will get Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
Scholastic Scope • NOVEMBER 2014
Shutterstock (Calf); Rene Mansi/Getty Images (Eraser)
“¿Te gusta?” means
“Do you like it?” in
Spanish. The author
uses many Spanish
phrases. What effect
does this create?