The Gift

The Gift

by Carol Ann Duffy, Rob Ryan

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Newcomer Ryan's joyous, intricate paper cutouts soften U.K. poet laureate Duffy's (The Princess's Blankets) story, which follows a girl through a life well lived until her death. A girl finds a sunny clearing and realizes--her thought "as urgent and vivid as a butterfly opening its orange wings"--that she would like to be buried there. A mysterious old woman appears, promises to grant her wish, and vanishes. As the girl grows older, she tends the clearing, paints pictures, brings her children there to play, and arrives at last at the end of her life. She dreams of entering the clearing again--and now she is the old woman, and a girl awaits (possibly her younger self). Ryan's monochromatic cutouts of the clearing and the town are punched all over with showers of stars, flower petals, leaves, and snowflakes, giving the silhouetted spreads an airy feeling of light and plenty. Despite the jewellike palette and language ("snow whirled and shredded itself around the house"), make no mistake: Duffy's tale looks mortality right in the eye; without Ryan's work, it would be harder to bear. Ages 8–up. (Nov.)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2�6—Few picture books follow a protagonist from death to burial as in this poetic tale. A girl picnicking with her family long ago outside a small village wishes to be buried in her favorite clearing. An old woman appears who says the girl shall have her unspoken wish if she will only give her the flower chain she is weaving. The girl does so, returns to her family, and grows into an artist, wife, mother, and grandmother. When she is old, she expresses her wish to be buried in the clearing, which she has visited and tended throughout her life, and her wish comes true. Most remarkable are the illustrations, hand cut from single sheets of paper and spray painted, one color per spread, and then photographed. Intricate floral details in a folk-art style capture the girl's artistic spirit and the sunlight and flowers that grace the clearing. Despite the burial wish, this really is a story about a life well lived, but it may require some hand-selling to find an appreciative audience.—Julie R. Ranelli, Queen Anne's County Free Library, Stevensville, MD
Kirkus Reviews - Kirkus Reviews

The United Kingdom's poet laureate offers a quiet but powerful musing on the circle of life and the arc of art, married to the precise loveliness of Ryan's papercuts. On a picnic in the woods with her parents, a girl looks up from making a flower necklace to see an older woman, who promises she will be buried there when she dies, in return for the necklace. The girl returns often to the spot, planting bulbs and placing special stones, even as she grows, falls in love and begins a family. She has "art in her hands" and makes her living painting. Throughout her life she returns to the profusion of flowers and herbs with her children and then her grandchildren. At the end, she dreams of the clearing and the promise. The papercuts are detailed and beautiful, each page done in a single striking color; each flower, stone, bird, window and silhouette figure is static yet vivid with energy. While the story might be more for adults than children, younger readers will love the exquisite images, time and again. (Picture book. 6-12)

Product Details

Barefoot Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

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