In this droll though somewhat wordy tale, Emberley ( Ruby ) introduces readers to the difficulties of gift-giving. Looking like Happy of Snow White fame, an endearing Uncle Arne finds the perfect gift for Tove, his young nephew--so perfect, in fact, that Uncle Arne decides to keep it for himself. Feeling slightly guilty, he then constructs a bicycle for Tove, a gift he himself will surely not covet, for bike riding is hardly his forte. Or is it? Emberley's gentle, homey watercolors are particularly winning in their use of an innovative technique in which multiple small images convey the impression of movement and ongoing action. Whether or not children will understand this concept does not really matter, for they are sure to enjoy the busy scenes--especially the chaos that Uncle Arne causes at the market. Ages 4-8. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-- Arne Hansen wants to find just the right present for his nephew Tove's 12th birthday. He first refurbishes an old pocketknife, but can't bear to part with it. Next he decides to fix up an old bike; complications arise when he must teach himself to ride the bike in order to deliver it. When Arne arrives, however, Tove proudly displays another bicycle, this one brand new. Luckily, Arne is carrying the prized pocketknife, which he offers to Tove, and is rewarded with a hug. Although the story has a quiet charm, something is missing. The characters seem distant and fail to engage readers. Arne's struggles (learning to ride a bike, giving up a prized possession) will be familiar to children, and perhaps relished by them, but it seems unlikely that they will truly identify with this odd adult. The well-drawn illustrations also lack interest. Occasionally busy and confusing, they are least successful when the same figure is shown progressing through a variety of poses in a single spread. This technique gives the pictures a curiously static look even when an abundance of action is implied. Those who enjoy an old-fashioned style or stories with faraway settings (in this case, Denmark) may be intrigued, and some children may relish the view of an adult coping with typical childhood concerns. Still, this is far from a mandatory purchase. --Lisa Dennis, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Robie H. Harris has written many award-winning books for children of all ages, including the definitive Family Library about sexuality: IT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL, IT'S SO AMAZING!, and IT'S NOT THE STORK! She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Michael Emberley is the illustrator of numerous books for children, including the Family Library. He lives in Wicklow, Ireland.