Christopher Award Medal
NCSS/CBC Notable Book in the Field of Social Studies
Pick of the Lists – American Book Sellers Association
Center for Latin American Studies, America’s Commended List
This Christopher Medal winner has already become a classic. While it reads as a folktale it is an original story. Trying to steal Doña Josefa’s gold, Juan follows this generous curandera through the countryside. In the process, he is affected by the beauty of the natural world around him, the goodwill of the people who work the fields, and the spirit of the healer he is pursuing. Neil Waldman’s poetic watercolors sensitively convey the beauty and diversity of the Central American landscape, as well as the inner transformation that Juan undergoes.
This CD contains the reading of both The Gold Coin and La moneda de oro. At the end of each reading I tell how the story came to be. Just as in recording some of my other favorite stories, Jordi’s Star, The Malachite Palace, and The Unicorn of the West it was a very meaningful experience for me to read aloud these books, to choose the music to accompany the reading, and to share after each recording the story of the creation of each book.
This was my first book published in English by a major American publisher. I owe my daughter, Rosalma Zubizarreta, for the encouragement to pursue many publishers until one was willing to publish the story. Without her enthusiasm for this story, which she wanted to see in the hands of every child in the United States and her gentle support after each rejection, the book would probably had been published abroad, in Spanish, and probably never reach the wide audiences it has reached.
The story was born one night, while returning home to the San Francisco Bay Area, after working with migrant farm-working parents in the Watsonville-Salinas area. It appeared in front of my eyes, as if it were a movie, and I saw the characters acting and speaking the whole story. When I arrived home I jotted down the whole story before falling asleep. The next morning it all seemed like a dream, but the pages were there, with the full text.
It has been an immense joy that Rosalma’s wishes materialized, as the book has been included in most major reading series and in many reading lists. The letters I have received from children and adolescents about this book are very moving and I have enjoyed visiting many classes which had read the book where we have talked about our personal richness, and students have shown their understanding of true values.
Probably the most extraordinary experience in connection with this book was to attend the performance staged by Sylvia Dorta-Duque de Reyes (San Diego County Office of Education) of The Gold Coin performed by students in the main plaza of the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca.
An elderly woman, Dona Josefa, sits in her hut, holding a gold coin. “I must be the richest woman in the world,” she says to herself. But unbeknownst to her, a thief, Juan, crouches at her window, watching and listening. When Dona Josefa leaves, Juan ransacks the hut but fails to find her treasure. Tracking the woman across the countryside, he misses her again and again–coming instead upon many people who have been helped by her. And when the thief finally does catch up with her, he is surprised to find that he, too, has been touched by her simple goodness. Set in South America, this beautifully designed book features an unusual, rewarding fable and Waldman’s ( Nessa’s Fish ) lovely, stylized watercolors. It’s a rich collaboration, worthy of repeated readings. Ages 5–8.
School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3: Juan has been a thief for many years. He is pale and bent from creeping about at night, and that’s what he’s doing the night he peeks into Dona Josefa’s hut. She is holding a gold coin and says that she must be the richest woman in the world. Then and there, Juan determines to steal that coin, and any others she may have. It is a decision that changes Juan’s life forever. This gentle story of redemption, ably translated by Randall, is structurally at once cumulative and circular, and is ideally suited for memorization and telling. It will work well as a read-aloud, too. Waldman’s clean, pale watercolors have an art nouveau feel, and are large enough to be seen at story times. Whether told, read to a group, or shared one-on-one, the tale of Juan’s search for an old woman’s treasure makes an important point in a concise and satisfying manner. –Ann Welton, Univ. Child Development School, Seattle.
Hungry Mind Review
“The Gold Coin takes the integration of story and illustration to the level of fine art. With marks of a classic fable, this original tale by Alma Flor Ada describes the changes in a thief as he mistakenly pursues the golden treasure of a “curandera” or traditional healer. In graceful prose Ada presents a series of adventures, each ending with the gold just out of reach of the thief. The episodes proceed in a tension and release rhythm; gradually Juan the thief is transformed through kindness. “Later, when the little girl took him by the hand to show him a family of rabbits burrowed under a fallen tree, Juan’s face broke into a smile. It had been a long, long time since Juan had smiled.” Neil Waldman’s illustrations are magnificent. The text is printed on photographed watercolor paper, and each page is tinted in a rainbow wash. Strong graphic elements unite facing pages. Postage stamp-size drawings hint at the next part of the story. The full-page watercolor paintings gradually reveal more subtle facial features as the thief opens his heart to those around him. Of the four books [reviewed in this article] The Gold Coin exhibits the strongest unity of text and illustration, a synthesis equaled by few books of any genre. Each book however, gives us a view of life drawn from within the culture of la Raza. These authentic points of view will help increase awareness and appreciation of the beauty of the cultures at the heart of the Americas.” (Hungry Mind Review. Fall, 1991) .
School Library Journal
“[…] This gentle story of redemption, ably translated by Randall, is structurally at once cumulative and circular, and ideally suited for memorization and telling. It will work well as a read-aloud, too. Waldman’s clean, pale watercolors have an art nouveau feel, and are large enough to be seen at story times. Whether told, read to a group, or shared one-to-one the tale of Juan’s search for an old woman’s treasure makes an important point in a concise and satisfying manner.” –Ann Welton, Univ. Child Development School. Seattle, School Library Journal, April, 1991.
“Juan, a confirmed thief, overhears Doña Josefa referring to herself as “the richest person in the world”; moreover, he sees a gold coin in her hand. But before he can steal it, she hurries away with the two men, leaving nothing of value that he can find in her humble hut. Juan follows her trail, only to discover that she has always gone on another errand of mercy just before he arrives. The people she’s helped are willing to lead him to her –but each time there is work to be finished first, and Juan (hoping to hurry his guide) joins in. As he labors and shares food with these humble folk, Juan becomes healthier in body and mind; still, when he finally catches up with Doña Josefa, he demands her gold. She gives it to him freely –thus completing his moral transformation: he returns it as a gift for the next patient. Like a folk tale, this original story builds naturally to its satisfying conclusion; its long text should appeal well beyond the picture-book age. Waldman’s watercolors, with stylized forms displayed against varying backgrounds of romantic sunset hues, gently suggest both the story’s universal tone and its Latin American setting.” (Kirkus Review. January 1, 1991)
The Reading Teacher
“An unlikely friendship and a new perspective on life emerge in The Gold Coin, a picture book by Alma Flor Ada. […] Students laughed at the frustrated thief but were moved by the outcome of the story and the thief discovery that friendship is a greater treasure than gold. They spoke enthusiastically about Neil Waldman’s full-page, pastel illustrations. (The Reading Teacher. Vol. 47, No.1. September, 1993).
Created by Sherylanne Wesley
Write the sentence from the book with the word in it so that you can see how the word is used in context. Then write the definition. Finally, create a sentence of your own using the word (at least 5 words in each sentence).
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