School Library Journal
(October 1, 2003; 0-590-30725-8)
Gr 3-5-After Papa dies, Mama and Grace become so poor that they can't afford to buy gifts for one another. Secretly, the child trades her beloved porcelain doll (with its tattered dress) for a china figurine of a gentleman-to go with Mama's china lady. Secretly, her mother trades her china lady to a seamstress in exchange for a new dress for the doll. Should this sound familiar, Thompson explains in a note that this story "was inspired by The Gift of the Magi,' by O. Henry, published in 1906-." Told in a lugubrious tone, with a precious design including a pale, refined font against an ivory background on bordered pages, the story is relentlessly melodramatic. Burke's oil-painted illustrations, which are beautifully textured and aptly convey both the story's charged emotions and the Edwardian setting, capture each poignant aspect of the story. Libraries already owning illustrated versions of the original, such as Lisbeth Zwerger's The Gift of the Magi (Picture Book Studio, 1991), may want to pass on this reworking.-S. P. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
(September 22, 2003; 0-590-30725-8)
Thompson (Mouse's First Christmas) beautifully retools "The Gift of the Magi," recasting O. Henry's husband and wife as a Depression-era widow and daughter. Grace sells her beloved doll in order to buy the mate to her mother's cherished figurine, which is sold to buy a doll's dress for Grace. But in contrast with O. Henry, Thompson places more emphasis on the strong emotional bonds that inspire the ill-fated gift-giving than on the ironies of the exchange. Using oil and colored pencil, Burke (My Brothers' Flying Machine) tinkers with perspective, creating unexpected compositions graced with abundant-and lovely-period details. Designed like an old-fashioned storybook, with full-page paintings punctuating lengthy text, this volume could be an excellent choice for family read-alouds. Ages 6-9. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
(September 1, 2003; 0-590-30725-8)
Gr. 3-5, younger for reading aloud. In this homage to The Gift of the Magi, Grace trades her doll for a china figurine that complements one her father gave to her mother, while her mother sacrifices her figurine to buy a new dress for Grace's doll. Only last Christmas the family had been wealthy, but Papa's unexpected death left them with debts. With little to look forward to during the holiday season, mother and daughter each decide to sell her most precious item to buy a present the other will cherish. Though Thompson doesn't make clear that Mama has sold her figurine, older kids will catch on. Burke's oil paintings, reminiscent of Floyd Cooper's work, take children back to a 1930s world, where the wealthy lived lavishly while the poor made do. Thick, cream-colored paper; hand-lettered text; and decorative borders with designs like those on Liberty fabrics add to the lovely book's visual appeal. Together the art and text capture the sentiment that love can bring as much happiness as money. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist