Cover image for Mama had to work on Christmas
Mama had to work on Christmas
Marsden, Carolyn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [2003]

Physical Description:
73 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Gloria's Christmas begins with frustration when she is forced to go to work with Mama, but by the end of the day, she appreciates her family and enjoys the holiday.
Reading Level:
720 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.4 1.0 74148.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
North Park Branch Library X Juvenile Fiction Holiday

On Order



Gloria always spends Christmas with Papi, Mama, and Nana. But this Christmas, Papi is away picking oranges and Mama has to work at the hotel where she is a maid. Gloria is miserable when Mama makes her go with her-until they get to the hotel with its lavish decorations and food piled high on the tables. What a magical place to spend Christmas! But then Mama explains that these lovely things are only for the guests: Gloria is to stay in the kitchen where nobody will see her. From her hiding spot, Gloria watches as a girl her age eats a fancy meal with her family. How can one girl have so much while another has so little? How Gloria moves from disappointment to understanding makes for a beautiful story that honors the true spirit of the Christmas season. Illustrations by Robert Casilla.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-5. Gloria hates it when she has to go with her mother to work on Christmas Day in the fancy hotel where Mama has a job cleaning the bathrooms. At first Gloria is dazzled by the hotel luxury, but she's warned not to touch the buffet feast, and she's ashamed when a rich kid pities her as a "have-not." She's still upset after work when she and Mama join Nana in her rough cardboard house, which has no electricity, just over the border in Mexico. But, as they celebrate Feliz Navidad together, and Gloria opens her wonderful gift from Papa (who's a "migrant," away working in the fields on the holiday), she realizes that the love in her family makes her rich. The neat uplifting story doesn't have the wrenching beauty of Franciscoimenez's autobiographical The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child (1997), which is for older readers, but this small chapter-book with moving, realistic black-and-white illustrations does bring home the painful truth about class differences, a subject seldom addressed in children's books. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Marsden's (The Gold-Threaded Dress) brief, affecting novel offers anything but the standard holiday story of a beautifully decorated tree and a sumptuous dinner. These trimmings are here, but are enjoyed only by the guests of the posh hotel to which nine-year-old Gloria accompanies her mother to work on Christmas Day. Her migrant worker father cannot be home for the holiday and after her mother's shift, she and Gloria cross the border into Mexico to have dinner with her grandmother at her tiny house made from scraps of wood. While her mother cleans and attends the ladies' room, Gloria helps out in the kitchen and, delivering a bowl to the buffet table, encounters an expensively dressed girl who hands Gloria her stuffed animal; her grandmother has told her she should "give to the have-nots." Marsden effectively portrays Gloria's resentment of what she does not have and subsequent appreciation for her loving family and all that she does have. Her tale will be an eye-opener for many youngsters. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 7-11. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-4-When nine-year-old Gloria's mama has to work at a fancy hotel on Christmas, the girl must spend the day there as well, since Papi is away picking oranges. After work, the resentful child accompanies her mother across the border into Mexico, where her grandmother lives in a ramshackle hut. She sulks until the enormous wellspring of love she receives from Mama and Nana, not to mention the homemade gifts, reminds her of how much she really has, despite her family's poverty. This account of one girl's Christmas could have been saccharine or preachy, but the tone is matter-of-fact and engaging, and Gloria is an appealing character.-E. M. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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