The Gifts by Regina Fackelmayer, illustrated by Christa Unzner. NorthSouth Books (October 2009); ISBN 9780735822658; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from personal library
A kindhearted and independent young girl named Mia finishes her holiday shopping on Christmas Eve and purchases a little Christmas tree in a pot. On her way home she encounters a bearded old man who has fallen on an icy patch, and she helps him pick up all of his packages. When she arrives home she realizes that she left her tree behind when she stopped to help the man. She goes back out into the snowy night to search for it but, instead of finding her tree, she meets a sad young boy who has lost his hat. With a smile, she gives him her own new hat. Her generosity does not go unnoticed. Later that night, she receives a very special gift of her own from two magical visitors (one looks a lot like Santa).
The Gifts made it on last year's The Horn Book Magazine's Holiday High Notes and rightly so. This picture book glows with holiday warmth and focuses on the spirit of giving. Through simple acts of kindness, Mia helps others and spreads Christmas joy. Unzner gives the illustrations a wonderful hazy and sometimes snowy feel by speckling all the pictures with small splatters of paint, and this technique adds to the fantasy. The mystery of what happened to Mia's tree had my kids on the edge of the couch wanting to learn the outcome. They also loved Mia's pets -- her dog wears a silly green sweater! The book was first published in Switzerland under the title Ein Weihnachtsbaum für Mia (A Christmas Tree for Mia).
Did your kids give any gifts from the heart this year? Every year my daughter paints special pictures to give as gifts. (See past creations: 2009 and 2008). This year she decided to paint Christmas trees. She used the glittery tree on the front cover of The Gifts as inspiration for her paintings and enjoyed learning how to make snow speckles like Unzer's by flicking the bristles of her brush with her fingers.
"If we have the opportunity to be generous with our hearts, ourselves, we have no idea of the depth and breadth of love's reach."
- Margaret Cho
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