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The Gift of the Magi
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The Gift of the Magi

by Joel Priddy

Young couple prepares for Christmas Day. But with no money, how can either Della or Jim buy a proper gift for the other? The young couple possesses only two items of value: Jim's gold watch and Della's wondrous hair. Yet as Christmas Day nears, through blind generosity and love, Della and Jim become the wisest of gift givers.

This inspired adaptation


Young couple prepares for Christmas Day. But with no money, how can either Della or Jim buy a proper gift for the other? The young couple possesses only two items of value: Jim's gold watch and Della's wondrous hair. Yet as Christmas Day nears, through blind generosity and love, Della and Jim become the wisest of gift givers.

This inspired adaptation breathes new life into the beloved and classic tale by prolific American writer O. Henry.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - JoAn Watson Martin
Della is desperate. Christmas is nearly here, and she has only been able to save one dollar and eighty-seven cents. No matter how many times she counts it, she cannot imagine finding a present good enough for Jim without more money. The only solution she finds is to flop down on their shabby couch and howl. To make matters worse, Jim's income has been cut back. After she finishes her cry, she watches a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard, which reflects her gray mood. Suddenly as she looks in the mirror she is inspired to grab her hat and coat and go out in the snow to Sofronie's Hair Goods shop. With the twenty dollars she gets from selling her hair, she finds a platinum fob chain for Jim's prize possession. She remembers his embarrassment when he has to check the time on the sly so no one will notice the worn leather strap that he is using in place of a chain. When Della returns home, she sets her short hair in tiny curls and hopes Jim will still think she is pretty. Della cannot read the expression on his face when he walks in the door. Is he angry, or surprised, disappointed or horrified? Jim looks around the room as if her hair must be there somewhere. His gift to her is dependent on her cascade of hair like her gift to him is dependent on his gold watch. The Magi invented the art of giving gifts by bringing presents to the Christ child. O. Henry was a master of the short story. P.J. Lynch depicts an apartment in the city of a hundred years ago, including the dress and crowds in the street. He loved illustrating this story because of the relationship between Della and Jim, "which is at its heart." Reviewer: JoAn Watson Martin
School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up

An illustrated, unabridged version of the classic short story in which a young husband and wife each, unbeknownst to the other, gives up a most treasured possession to buy the other a wonderful gift. The gifts, of course, are useless as a result, but the couple's love is presumably all the stronger. The sepia-toned watercolors have an authentic period look; the details present in the New York City street scenes and the couple's rather shabby apartment add a strong feeling of time and place to the story. Very different in style from Lisbeth Zwerger's lovely and delicate version (S & S, 2006), this is a fine choice for libraries needing another illustrated edition of this Christmas tale.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

From the Publisher
“German artist Sonja Danowski gives a faded, almost grubby-looking elegance to her artwork for O. Henry's 1906 tale of Yuletide sacrifice….Her sepia-toned illustrations set in the late 19th century suit the story exactly, evoking the poverty of the devoted young wife and …. In concert with the pictures, the arch tone and surprise ending of O. Henry's original story make for excellent delivery aloud to children age 8 and older.”—Wall Street Journal


"One of my favorite stories about love, sacrifice, and generosity is O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. Beautifully illustrated by Sonja Danowski, this traditional story of giving a gift to your most precious loved one... [is] filled with important messages for any time of year." —Jenny Williams, geekdad.com

Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
O. Henry's traditional Christmas story has been newly illustrated in an oversized picture book format. Danowski's sepia illustrations have the look of hand-tinted early twentieth-century photographs, a beautiful complement to the literary text. The details, such as photographs hanging on the wall, simple Christmas decorations, tenement buildings outside the window, and the horse-and-buggy in the street draw the reader into the time period. The color red is used sparingly, predominantly on Dell's blouse and in the store window. It provides depth and definition to the pictures. The endpapers look like a flower and vine wallpaper. This delicate red flower with green vines accompanies each page of text. Danowski is particularly good at creating emotive faces that clearly show the main characters' feelings. If you are looking for a gift book, or to replace an old version of this story in the library collection, this is an excellent choice. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
Kirkus Reviews
The sentimental short story is presented in an elegant edition with moody illustrations reminiscent of antique sepia photographs. The story, first published as a book in 1906, is rather flowery and wordy, with old-fashioned constructions such as "the silent imputation of parsimony." The plot revolves around a young couple, Della and Jim, who live a Spartan life in their tiny flat. Each wants to buy a special Christmas gift for the other, but there is only a little money for presents. Della sells her beautiful, knee-length hair to buy a watch chain for Jim's prized pocket watch, but at the same time, Jim sells his watch to buy a set of hair combs for Della. They realize that their love for each other is their real gift that they must treasure. The oversized, full-page illustrations are in muted shades of browns and grays, with the only touch of color in Della's muted, rose-colored blouse and complementary roses in the Art Nouveau style decorating each page of text. Each rose is larger than the one preceding, and the stylized flowers are repeated in elegant endpapers printed with twining roses and vines. Though the story is long and of another era, Henry's touching account of young love at Christmas has an enduring appeal. (Picture book. 10 & up)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.26(w) x 7.28(h) x 0.55(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

William Sydney Porter, better known by his pen name O.Henry, was an American writer. O. Henry's short stories are known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings.


Sonja Danowski was born in

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