One dollar and eight-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure—her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift. Beautiful, delicate watercolors by award-winning illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger add new poignancy and charm to this simple tale about the rewards of unselfish love.
About the Author
Lisbeth Zwerger has been accorded nearly every prize that can be given, including the highest international award for lifetime achievement, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal. Since 1981 she has devoted her extraordinary talents to children’s literature, to stories as charming and picturesque as her native Vienna. Always surprising, always engaging, her artwork combines technical mastery with an insight and gentleness so rare and captivating that she has been correctly called one of the finest illustrators of the twentieth century.
William Sydney Porter—later to be known as O. Henry—was born in North Carolina in 1862. Known for his surprise endings and ability to capture the hope and pathos of ordinary people, Henry is best remembered for his stories about New York City. The Gift of the Magi was written in 1906, four years before his death.
Read an Excerpt
A guard came to the prison shoe shop, where JimmyValentine was assiduously stitching uppers, and escort-ed him to the front office. There the warden handedJimmyhis pardon, which had been signed that morning by thegovernor. Jimmy took it in a tired kind of way. He had servednearlyten months of a four-year sentence. He had expected tostay only about three months, at the longest. When a manwith asmany friends on the outside as Jimmy Valentine had isreceived in the "stir" it is hardly worthwhile to cut his hair.
"Now, Valentine," said the warden, "you'll go out in the morning. Brace up, and make a man of yourself. You're not a bad fellow at heart. Stop cracking safes, and live straight."
"Me?" said Jimmy, in surprise. "Why, I never cracked a safe in my life."
"Oh, no," laughed the warden. "Of course not. Let's see, now. How was it you happened to get sent up on that Springfield job? Was it because you wouldn't prove an alibi for fear of compromising somebody in extremely high-toned society? Or was it simply a case of a mean old jury that had it in for you? It's always one or the other with you innocent victims."
"Me?" said Jimmy, still blankly virtuous. "Why, warden, I never was in Springfield in my life!"
"Take him back, Cronin," smiled the warden, "and fix him up with outgoing clothes. Unlock him at seven in the morning, and let him come to the bull pen. Better think over my advice, Valentine."
At a quarter past seven on the nextmorning Jimmy stood in the warden's outer office. He had on a suit of the villainously fitting ready-made clothes and a pair of stiff, squeaky shoes that the state furnishesto its discharged compulsory guests.
The clerk handed him a railroad ticket and the five-dollar bill with which the law expected him to rehabilitate himself into good citizenship and prosperity. The warden gave him a cigar, and shook hands. Valentine, 9762, was chronicled on the books "Pardoned by Governor," and Mr. James Valentine walked out into the sunshine.
Disregarding the song of the birds, the waving green trees, and the smell of the flowers, Jimmy headed straight for a restaurant. There he tasted the first sweet joys of liberty in the shape of a broiled chicken and a bottle of white wine--followed by a cigar a grade better than the one the warden had given him. From there he proceeded leisurely to the depot. He tossed a quarter into the hat of a blind man sitting by the door, and boarded his train. Three hours set him down in a little town near the state line. He went to the cafe of one Mike Dolan and shook hands with Mike, who was alone behind the bar.
"Sorry we couldn't make it sooner, Jimmy, me boy," said Mike. "But we had that protest from Springfield to buck against, and the governor nearly balked. Feeling all right?"
"Fine," said Jimmy. "Got my key?"
He got his key and went upstairs, unlocking the door of a room at the rear. Everything was just as he had left it. There on the floor was still Ben Price's collar button that had been torn from that eminent detective's shirt band when they had overpowered Jimmy to arrest him.
Pulling out from the wall a folding bed, Jimmy slid back a panel in the wall and dragged out a dust-covered suitcase. He opened this and gazed fondly at the finest set of burglar's tools in the East. It was a complete set, made of specially tempered steel, the latest designs in drills, punches, braces and bits, jemmies, clamps, and augers, with two or three novelties invented by Jimmy himself, in which he took pride. Over nine hundred dollars they had cost him to have made at ----, a place where they make such things for the profession.
In half an hour Jimmy went downstairs and through the cafe He was now dressed in tasteful and well-fitting clothes, and carried his dusted and cleaned suitcase in his hand.
"Got anything on?" asked Mike Dolan, genially.
"Me?" said Jimmy, in a puzzled tone. "I don't understand. I'm representing the New York Amalgamated Short Snap Biscuit Cracker and Frazzled Wheat Company."
This statement delighted Mike to such an extent that Jimmy had to take a seltzer- and-milk on the spot. He never touched "hard" drinks.
A week after the release of Valentine, 9762, there was a neat job of safe-burglary done in Richmond, Indiana, with no clue to the author. A scant eight hundred dollars was all that was secured. Two weeks after that a patented, improved burglar-proof safe in Logansport was opened like a cheese to the tune of fifteen hundred dollars, currency; securities and silver untouched. That began to interest the rogue-catchers. Then an old-fashioned bank safe in Jefferson City became active and threw out of its crater an eruption of banknotes, amounting to five thousand dollars. The losses were now high enough to bring the matter up into Ben Price's class of work. By comparing notes, a remarkable similarity in the methods of the burglaries was noticed. Ben Price investigated the scenes of the robberies, and was heard to remark:
"That's Dandy Jim Valentine's autograph. He's resumed business. Look at that combination knob-jerked out as easy as pulling up a radish in wet weather. He's got the only clamps that can do it. And look how clean those tumblers were punched out! Jimmy never has to drill but one hole. Yes, I guess I want Mr. Valentine. He'll do his bit next time without any short-time or clemency foolishness."The Gift of the Magi. Copyright © by O. Henry. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is book has short five story.Every story is interesting. Of cause,my favorite story is the gift.......This story is about love.I think the auther want to tell us love is more important than money.It is simple, but in fact we don't undersrand.This book gave me the chance I think it.I want to read this.
Lisbeth Zwerger illustrates O. Henry's classic tale of a young couples' sacrifices in finding perfect Christmas gifts for each other. It is a touching story about love and unselfishness, and especially relevant during the Christmas season. Zwerger's illustrations are incredibly soft and flowing without sacrificing detail, bringing new dimension to this familiar story. Although a picture book, the thought provoking themes of the story make this more appropriate for upper elementary and older. I would recommend this as a good addition to a school library or public children's collection.
The Gift Of The Magi was one of the greatest book I ever read. It touched me to see a couple give up their most valuable objects that they owned for love.