A Reward for Josefina

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Jean-Paul Tibbles, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, and Phillip Hood


While Josefina is grateful that her aunt is staying with the Montoyas to help, she can't help but feel jealous of the close connections her older sisters seem to have with Tia Dolores. Ana has gained her respect because of how she ran the Montoya household after their mother died, and as adult with a family has a different sort of relationship that a child does to another adult anyway. Francisca always makes Tia Dolores laugh with her quick wit. Clara's dedication and skill to weaving impresses Tia Dolores constantly. Josefina wants to do something to show herself worthy of her aunt's admiration as well. She is hopeful that her chance will come when the family goes to harvest pine nuts (her father offers a reward to whoever collects the most), but she's left at the campsite to watch one-year-old Antonio and three-year-old Juan with two servants. Soon though, Antonio wakes from his nap and one servant takes him to his mother while the other takes the horses to a stream for water.

Josefina and Juan quickly get bored watched their lunch cook. Juan grabs a bag and starts collecting the few stray pine nuts from the ground. He wants the reward. Josefina doesn't have the heart to tell him that it's hopeless. She shakes the trees around the campsite to help him get a few more handfuls, but his bag is still mostly empty. Josefina then climbs some of the trees, jumping on the branches to knock down more ripe nuts than her nine-year-old arms can shake loose. While she's in a tree, she and Juan spy a squirrel skulking about their campsite. They hurry to scare it off, but not before it brazenly eats a bit of their food. While they're chasing it, the pair find its horde of food in a hollow tree: hundreds of pine nuts! Josefina climbs the tree and tosses down handful after handful of nuts. Juan's bag is full to bursting! When the rest of their family returns for lunch, their sacks are heavy with nuts, but Juan's is overflowing. Josefina tells the family how she and Juan were able to get so many while still minding the camp, and Tia Dolores praises her for being so clever. That in itself is a tremendous reward for her...which is good because the squirrel made off with the candy that her father brought as the prize!

Looking Back

This time the historical section is about the some seasonal chores. In the spring, families would clean their shared irrigation systems and re-plaster their adobe houses. Once the reservoirs were full, families could plant crops. In the autumn, they would harvest and hunt and preserve food for the winter, when they needed to have enough to keep themselves and their livestock fed.


Antonio still nurses from time to time. Good for Ana. It's wonderful if a mother is able keep up breastfeeding for at least a year. According to a pamphlet I just got from the pediatrician, if a baby still nurses at a year old, around four times a day (in addition to solid food) is recommended.

Good pine nut harvests came about every few years, not predictably every year, at least in Josefina's time.

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