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"The music is lovely, and the stars are breathtaking. I can see the house of General Vallejo below lit up with candles. Across the stillness I hear the laughter of his children and the clink of china. I am so glad to be back in my valley of the moon."
María Rosalia de Milagros[2]

Valley of the Moon: The Diary of María Rosalia de Milagros is the twenty-first book in the Dear America series. It was published in April 2001 by Scholastic. The book was written by Sherry Garland; her second in the series after 1998's A Line in the Sand. It was followed by Kristiana Gregory's Seeds of Hope.

The story follows María Rosalia de Milagros, a young servant at a wealthy rancho in California, who wants to learn about her birth parents.


"For Tony and Lydia Garcia, muchas gracias, amigos."

Book description[]

"November 11, 1845
We left before dawn today. I hated to leave Nelly, but my heart is homesick for Rancho Agua Verde. The carts are now filled with American cloth, sugar, flour, dry goods, tools, and furniture for the Medinas'
casa grande.
By dark, we reached the Sonoma hills and looked down at the beautiful valley. Gregorio says that Sonoma is the Indian word that means "valley of the moon." We are spending the night near a creek. The
vaqueros unsaddled their horses and rolled out their blankets in front of campfires. One is playing his guitarra, and another is singing a song of lost love. The music is lovely, and the stars are breathtaking....I am so glad to be back in my valley of the moon."


Young servant María Rosalia de Milagros lives at Rancho Agua Verde, the home of the wealthy Medina family. She and her younger brother Domingo are orphans who were adopted by the Medinas' servants Gregorio and Lupita. One day, the Medinas oldest daughter Miguela throws out a diary given to her by her suitor Henry Johnston. Rosalia takes it and begins writing in it. Later, Señor Johnston discovers her secret. He starts teaching her English in preparation for the arrival of his brother's family, including his niece Nelly whom is around her age. However, only Nelly and her brother Walter end up surviving the journey. Rosalia becomes close friends with Nelly when she stays at the rancho.

By December, Miguela finally agrees to marry Señor Johnston. The whole household is a flurry of activity preparing for the wedding as well as the holidays. Rosalia helps Ramona sew Miguela's wedding dress, which takes several days of work. The wedding, however, is postponed when the Medinas' second daughter Rafaela falls deathly ill. Rosalia and Lupita travel far for indigneous medicine, which helps her recover. Some days later, Señor Medina points out her a smallpox vaccination scar on Rosalia's arm, saying "It means that someone cared about you deeply." Rosalia then becomes more curious about her parents. In February, Miguela and Señor Johnston are wed and move to his home in Yerba Buena.

Rafaela requests for Rosalia to be her personal servant, which makes the Medinas' youngest daughter Gabriela jealous as she expected her to be her servant someday. Rosalia helps Rafaela get regular exercise, which allows her to slowly gain strength. In May, the Johnstons come for a visit. Rosalia develops a crush on Walter, who now speaks to her as a friend. Rafaela also develops feelings for him, which makes Rosalia "heart sick." Meanwhile, tensions between the Americans and Californios in Alta California begin to run high. In June, Señor Medina leaves the rancho on business after speaking to General Castro's lieutenants. The next day, Señora Medina insists on visiting her sister in nearby Sonoma.

In Sonoma, the group is soon joined by a sick and pregnant Miguela. She loses her baby, but survives. It is not long before some Americans take over the town, declaring it the California Republic. They stop anyone from leaving. Señor Johnston eventually is allowed to retrieve Miguela and brings with him the sad news of Nelly's death. Once the American army takes over, Rosalia and the others can return home. She begins dreaming of her parents and makes her way to Yerba Buena, where she entreats Walter to locate Padre Ygnacio whom found her and Domingo as children. Padre Ygnacio's letter reveals their relation to the Medina family who subsequently welcome Rosalia and Domingo with open arms.


Rosalia stayed with the Johnstons for two years, teaching Miguela how to cook and clean. The cousin became close friends. Rosalia and Domingo changed their last name to Medina in 1848 and moved to their father's property in the Sacramento Valley. Three years later, she married Walter and they eventually had five children. Walter discovered gold on Rosalia's property. They used the proceeds to buy land in Napa Valley, where they developed a thriving wine business. Rosalia continued keeping a diary and later began writing poetry and fiction. She published some of her work at the encouragement of the writer Samuel Clemens. In 1906, Rosalia was killed in the Great San Francisco Earthquake at seventy-three.

In 1848, gold was found near Sacramento Valley, leading to thousands of people flooding the region. Henry Johnston was able to make his fortune selling goods to the prospectors. Miguela would go on to give him eleven children. Americans began squatting on Señor Medina's and other rancheros lands. He was forced to his land after losing a fortune in legal fees. Señor and Señora Medina moved to Monterey, California, where Rafaela and Gabriela, now married, supported them. Domingo began raising cattle and horses on his father's property. Lupita and Gregorio came to live with him after Señor Medina sold his land. Domingo later married an indigenous woman.

Historical Note[]

In the sixteenth century, the modern state of California was dubbed Alta California by Spaniards. Over one hundred tribes of Native Americans were already living on the land. It remained largely uncolonized until 1769 when Franciscan priests came to set up missions. In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain and Alta California became its "most remote" territory. Mexican authorities began disbanding the missions by 1834. Over half of the indigenous population had died by this time from hard labor, poor living conditions in the missions, and epidemics. The missions' resources were given to the descendants of Spanish settlers and upper-class Mexican settlers, leading to wealthy ranchos.

Spanish-speaking citizens of Alta California, called californios, "considered themselves Californians first and Mexicans second." The citizens had a "fierce independent nature." Tensions between Mexico and the United States increased since 1836, resulting in the Mexican–American War when the United States annexed Texas in December 1845. A small band of American trappers placed the acknowledged leader of Alta California, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, under arrest and founded the short-lived California Republic. Ultimately, Mexico sold its northern provinces, including Alta California, to the United States in 1847. The same year, the discovery of gold further changed the lives of all the californios.

The section is preceded by a thorough glossary of Spanish terms used in the story. Nine pictures of life from the time are included along with the painting featured on the cover. A recipe for "Pastelitos de Boda" (Wedding Cookies) and the lyrics to "Cielito Lindo" are also featured.


Main article: List of Valley of the Moon characters
  • María Rosalia de Milagros, an inquisitive orphan who is a servant living at Rancho Agua Verde with her brother. She is a mestizo, meaning someone of Spanish and indigenous descent.
  • Domingo de Milagros is the playful, younger brother of Rosalia. Unlike his sister, Domingo is comfortable at the rancho and not knowing about their real parents.


Main article: Sherry Garland

Sherry Garland is an American author who primarily writes historical fiction novels. She is also the author of the Dear America book, A Line in the Sand, which takes place ten years before Valley of the Moon. Garland grew up in Texas near the border of the United States and Mexico. She developed an interest in Mexican culture and the history of New Spain. For Valley of the Moon, Garland wrote Rosalia to represent the contrasting cultures of the indigenous and Spanish cultures.


"I am greatly indebted to Eric Stanley, Director of Education at the Sonoma County Museum, for generously reading my manuscript for historical accuracy and for making helpful suggestions. Deepest appreciation also goes to Beth Levine for her editing, to Diane Garvey Nesin for her tedious fact-checking, to Zoe Moffitt for the photo research, and to Cristina Costantino for the beautiful cover design. Thanks also go to Tracy Mack for originally suggesting this topic and to Amy Griffin for her editorial support."


  • The portrait on the cover is a detail from the 1924 painting Rosa by Grace Carpenter Hudson. The background on the cover is a detail from the c. 1877-1884 painting Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad by Oriana Weatherbee Day.[3][4]


See also[]

Dear America

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow


The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken

External links[]