Far on the other side of the mountains, next to an enchanted castle, grows a tree with three golden oranges. It is there that the three brothers -- Santiago, Tomás, and Matías -- must journey if they wish to find a wife.
Once they reach their destination, the brothers must carefully pick the oranges and bring them back to the old woman who lives in a cave on the cliffs overlooking the sea. But, "In order to find your wives, you will need to work together," the old woman has said. "Woe to you if you do not follow my advice!"
Each of the brothers wants something different. Santiago wants a wife who is beautiful. Tomás wants one who is both rich and beautiful. But Matías, the youngest brother, longs for a woman who is kind, joyful, and loving...someone he could love very much in return.
Will the brothers be able to avert misfortune by working together? Will they be strong enough to break the spell that a wicked sorcerer has placed on the castle?
Master storyteller Alma Flor Ada offers a poetic and magical retelling of a well-loved traditional story about Blancaflor, a mythical young woman who appears in various stories throughout the Hispanic world. Reg Cartwright's boldly colorful and exquisitely stylized art is a perfect accompaniment.
Ada adds feminist panache to her retelling of the classic Spanish folktale. Mat as and his two older brothers wish to wed, but there is not a single unmarried girl in all their lush valley. The old woman who lives on the cliff by the sea has the answer: if they travel to a distant castle, pick three golden oranges and bring them to her, each brother will have the wife he desires. But they must work together or, she cautions, "Woe to you if you do not follow my advice." Mat as, the only one to comply, wins his destined bride, the kind Blancaflor, and she helps him to save both his brothers and her bewitched sisters. Ada's author's note cites no specific source for her retelling, but does contrast her Blancaflor tale with some of the more popular versions. As in her original fairy tale, The Malachite Palace, she adopts a straightforward, sometimes bland narrative voice ("When Mat as... saw that there was only one orange left, he felt very sad for his brothers"). But the artwork will sustain readers' interest. Cartwright's (The Band Over the Hill) vivid and varied vignettes and spot illustrations rendered in flat, round shapes and bold colors evoke folk art while displaying a sense of life and movement. The pictures here are as succulent as the oranges themselves. Ages 5-8.