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Gifts of the Heart


Beloved author-illustrator Patricia Polacco?s holiday story is a wonderful ode to the magic of family, Christmas, and giving the right kind of gifts?gifts filled with love.
Richie and Trisha want to buy Christmas gifts for their family, but they don't have enough money. Enter Kay Lamity, a new housekeeper . . . but is that all she is? She comes into their lives like a whirlwind, brimming with positive energy and a can-do attitude. ...

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Beloved author-illustrator Patricia Polacco’s holiday story is a wonderful ode to the magic of family, Christmas, and giving the right kind of gifts—gifts filled with love.
Richie and Trisha want to buy Christmas gifts for their family, but they don't have enough money. Enter Kay Lamity, a new housekeeper . . . but is that all she is? She comes into their lives like a whirlwind, brimming with positive energy and a can-do attitude. Kay not only straightens them out when it comes to whether or not Santa Claus is real, she teaches them something about gifts: the just-good-enough kind that come from the pocketbook and the unforgettable kind that come from the heart. Because of Kay, Trisha and Richie—and the family—have a Christmas morning they will never forget.

Celebrating the joy of homemade gifts, Patricia Polacco introduces readers to a new character who is truly a force of nature in this story reminiscent of Christmas Tapestry and An Orange for Frankie. This is a magical Christmas story the author swears is true, right down to the sleigh tracks on the farmhouse roof!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It’s Richie and Trisha’s last Christmas on Grampa’s farm, and they’re convinced that the new housekeeper, who comes in the wake of Gramma’s death, does not belong. But Kay Lamity gradually wins them over with her domestic talents, comforting bosom, and backcountry ways and wisdom. Polacco strains credibility by giving Kay Lamity lines like, “Well, slap my face to the side of a hog and let him roll in the mud,” but once again the energetic lyricism of her watercolors is a triumph. Winter always finds Polacco in her element, and her scenes of snug interiors and snowy landscapes find the emotional truths in even overly sentimental moments. Ages 5–8. (Oct.)
“A familiar Polacco story of family warmth, this time with a touch of magic. . . . A story of longings, not just for gifts but for people and places that are gone or soon will be. . . . Bright patterns in fabric and setting provide additional warmth even when snowflakes are interspersed. Emphasizing human connections, Polacco’s holiday story is quietly charming.”
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Reminiscent of Chris Van Allsburg's classic The Polar Express (Houghton Mifflin, 1985), this delightfully old-fashioned story reaffirms a child's belief in Santa Claus. The narrator, Trisha, and her older brother, Richie, prepare for their last Christmas on Grampa's farm before he has to sell the property. Dreaming of dolls and model trains, they want to make the holiday unforgettable even though they don't have much money. Kay Lamity, a wise, no-nonsense housekeeper arrives on their doorstep, bringing with her the true spirit of Christmas. Despite some initial difficulties, she befriends the children, sharing with them her belief that gifts from the heart don't come wrapped in paper and ribbons. Excited about seeing Santa in town, Trisha nearly has her Christmas ruined when Richie scoffs, "There ain't no Santa." Kay soon restores harmony in the house and helps Trisha and Richie make corn-husk angels, their gifts from the heart for Grampa and Momma. Trisha's faith in Santa is rewarded on Christmas morning when the siblings spot runner marks and hoof prints on the snow-covered roof and find two sleigh bells in the yard. Come spring, the magical Kay Lamity returns home, and to the family's surprise, the woman from the employment agency reveals that she hadn't sent her to them. Polacco's deftly drawn pencil and marker illustrations eloquently portray Trisha's nostalgic childhood world of cinnamon gumdrops, toy-store windows, and Santa parades, enhancing the warmth and charm of the story. Children will want to hear Gifts of the Heart every holiday season.—Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Polacco presents another offering in her series of nostalgic Christmas stories set in snowy Michigan of yesteryear, this time in the 1930s. Trisha and her older brother, Richie, live with their schoolteacher mother and their grandfather on the family farm. Their grandmother has recently died, and a new housekeeper arrives to help, in more ways than just by doing housework. Richie resents the new addition to the household, but Kay Lamity is a whirlwind of a character who can charm a sad boy, whip up a dinner and make angels out of corn husks, quick as you can say smart-talkin', larger-than-life folk hero. Why, that Kay Lamity can "stare down an armadilla while dancin' on the back of a wild boar." As the Christmas season unfolds, Richie tells his younger sister that Santa isn't real, upsetting the girl and threatening to ruin Christmas. Kindly, Kay helps the children regain their belief in Santa and start to accept the death of their grandmother and the impending sale of the farm. Polacco's distinctive illustrations are filled with the usual cozy kitchens, snowy farm scenes and appealing children, but it's Kay Lamity who stands out as the shining star of this touching, longer story. The story has humor, deeper meaning and a mystery as to Kay Lamity's true identity. (Sharp-eyed readers will note that Kay bears a striking resemblance to Polacco's photo on the jacket flap!) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399160943
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 10/3/2013
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 34,216
  • Lexile: AD660L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Polacco

Each year, Patricia Polacco (, beloved creator of over fifty picture books, including Christmas Tapestry and An Orange for Frankie, visits classrooms all over the United States. But Christmastime is a special time of giving for Patricia, who fills her old-timey Union City, Michigan, home with the holiday: Christmas trees decorated with timeless baubles in every room and garlands of pine on the railings and mantels. A highlight is when Santa himself stops by a Christmas party at the village firehouse, accompanied by a real reindeer, to give gifts to the children of the village. In some ways Patricia herself is Kay Lamity, a witty, loving woman who understands what a real gift means.

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