A Gift from Papá Diego / Un regalo de Papá Diego

By: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Illustrator: Geronimo Garcia
Translator: Pilar Herrera

“A border is nothing for people who love.”



"A border is nothing for people who love."

Little Diego loves his grandfather, but they don't see each other often because Papá Diego lives in Mexico and Little Diego lives in Texas across the border. One day Little Diego's father gives him a pile of comic books that his father had when he was growing up. In those comic books Little Diego discovers Superman. Maybe if he was like Superman, then he could fly off to see his grandfather in Mexico! So Little Diego tells his mother that he wants a Superman outfit for his birthday. His parents buy him one, but, of course, Little Diego cannot fly. He's heart-broken. Still, because he has had the daring to imagine, a wonderful event occurs and he enjoys one of his happiest birthdays ever! Each illustration in Papá Diego was built out of terra cotta clay and painted with acrylic paints. This gives the illustrations a 3 dimensional quality which kids will love!

A Gift for Papa Diego

Listen to Benjamin Sáenz read from A Gift from Papá Diego on NPR! Click here to listen to the story on NPR about Basketball in Barrio that also features the book.

"A Gift from Papá Diego / Un regalo de Papá Diego is a tender love story of a book, perfect for all relatives who must live at any distance from one another. It's a kiss on the forehead at bedtime!"—Naomi Shihab Nye

"A stylist in both poetry and prose, Sáenz has now taken his magic of flight to younger readers. This is his gift to them. Parents, snuggle up to your children at night and read this delightful tale of Dieguito."—Gary Soto

Awards and Accomodations

Accelerated Reader

11 reviews for A Gift from Papá Diego / Un regalo de Papá Diego

  1. Publishers Weekly
    “A border is nothing for people who love,” Papa Diego tells his young grandson, also named Diego, in this engaging, bilingual picture-book debut by American Book Award winner Saenz. Diego’s birthday is coming, and he longs to see his Papa Diego, who lives far away in Chihuahua, Mexico. He knows his grandfather is old and that it’s hard to cross the border. Diego fantasizes about flying there in his new Superman suit, until he walks into the kitchen and finds his beloved grandpa waiting for him. The artwork isn’t quite on par with this fine text. Children’s book newcomer Garcia employs terra-cotta clay painted with acrylics to create the homey illustrations and page borders. Readers—bilingual or not—will likely enjoy this emotionally satisfying family story.

  2. Booklist
    Little Diego is lonely for his beloved grandfather Papa Diego, whose home is far away across the border in Mexico. After reading the old Superman comics that his father used to learn English as a boy, Little Diego asks for a Superman suit for his birthday so that he can fly across the border to visit Papa Diego. Crushed when he realizes that wearing the Superman suit cannot help him fly, the young boy’s disappointment turns to happiness when he discovers that Papa Diego has come to visit. As his grandfather reminds his little namesake: “A border is nothing for people who love.” Full of child appeal, Garcia’s painted clay, claymation-style illustrations are unusual and entertaining. Sensitively told and true to the experience of many Mexican Americans, this bilingual picture book bridges the borders that separate all families who must live far apart from their loved ones.

  3. Críticas
    This charming bilingual tale of a boy’s love for his grandfather combines the superhero stuff that boys love with the pain and pathos of a long-distance relationship. Diego lives with his family in El Paso, but his grandfather, with whom he shares a first name and a birthday, lives far away in Mexico. The story is told with true understanding of the hopes and fantasies of boys and yet it is grounded in the reality of today’s transnational families. A must for any library serving a Mexican American clientele.

  4. Kirkus Reviews
    A nicely done bilingual tale about a little boy who misses his grandfather. Little Diego lives in Texas, but Pap Diego remains across the border in Mexico. When his father gives him some old Superman comics to look at, Dieguito gets an idea: If he had a Superman suit he could fly across the border to see Pap Diego every day. He asks for one for his birthday, but the suit doesn’t perform as expected. Bitterly disappointed, Dieguito thinks he’s having an awful birthday until a surprise visit from Pap Diego gives him exactly what he’s been wishing for. Parallel columns of text tell the story in English and in Spanish, accompanied by innovative illustrations, originally modeled with clay, then painted with acrylics and photographed. Reminiscent of Mexican folk art, they fit the story especially well, conveying its warmth and poignancy; geometric clay borders and small figurines on text pages complete the package.

  5. Foreword Magazine
    This bilingual early reader is the first children’s book by Saenz, an anuthor of novels, poems and short fiction for middle readers. Each page contains blocks of the Spanish and English text. This story is long enough to satisfy a young reader ready to move beyond the simplest beginning readers. The story will be an enjoyable read-aloud in either language as well as a title to offer to the newly independent reader who is not quite ready for a chapter book.

  6. People en Español
    La traducción al español es buena y el diseño del libro es atractivo.

  7. Midwest Book Review
    Highly recommended for multicultural and bilingual school and public library collections.

  8. Children’s Literature
    Little Diego loves his grandfather and thinks of him constantly. But his grandfather lives in Chihuahua, Mexico and Little Diego lives in El Paso. He can’t talk to him when he wishes and he can’t understand why his grandfather doesn’t live with the family. When Little Diego’s father gives him his collection of Superman comics, Little Diego starts to dream of being able to fly and he knows that what he really needs is a Superman suit. He gets one for his birthday but, of course, he can’t fly to Mexico so he rushes to his room in tears. The story has a happy ending with a birthday surprise that Little Diego will always remember. The story is told in English and Spanish accompanied by unusual illustrations-photographs of clay figures and scenes painted with acrylics. It is a warm family story.

  9. Horn Book Magazine
    The bilingual text presents the story of Little Diego, who lives with his family in El Paso, Texas. The boy misses his grandfather terribly, and his father does his best to explain that Pap Diego is getting old and lives far away across the border in Chihuahua. One day Diego’s father gives him a pile of his old favorite Superman comics, and Little Diego reads them again and again, dreaming of a Superman suit that would enable him to fly to Mexico to visit Pap Diego. When his birthday arrives, Little Diego gets the longed-for present, but he is so disappointed that the suit can’t make him fly that he throws it into the garbage can. When he grudgingly joins the family for his birthday cake, he finds his real birthday surprise: Pap Diego sitting at the table. “Mijito,” he says, “tonight Chihuahua is not so far, and I do not feel so old, and it was very easy to cross the border. A border is nothing for people who love.” Garcia’s expressive clay illustrations painted with acrylics bring life to the characters in this Mexican-American family, and iconic designs on the text pages playfully reflect elements of the touching story.

  10. Austin Chronicle
    This paperback original is a debut into the world of children’s book for Mr. Saenz, and he has succeeded in writing a poignant read-aloud book for young children-at once entertaining and comforting.

  11. Hispanic Magazine
    Brought to life by colorful illustrations built from terra-cotta clay by commercial artist Geronimo Garcia. An ideal read-aloud or read-alone book.

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