Review Blog

Oct 23 2008

The gift of the Magi by O. Henry

cover image

Walker Books, 2008.
(All ages) This beautifully illustrated book, recreates the story of the Christmas presents given by a married couple to each other, in such a way that the story is given extra breadth and depth. Many will know the story. A young couple, living in impoverished circumstances in a flat in an American city, sell one of their possessions to buy the other a present. The girl sells her hair to buy her husband a watch chain, and he sells his watch in order to buy her combs for her hair. It is a wonderful story of the selflessness of giving, of love and marriage, of the custom of giving presents, begun by the magi on the first Christmas.

The illustrations expose the poverty of their lives, the dirt and grime of the city, the haven that is their flat. The preponderance of brown, grey and white underscores the paucity of their lives, as she counts out her small money, saved to buy him a present. Students of all ages will immediately see the irony of the story, and will readily pick up the echoes in the illustrations. A lovely picture book which will be read by many, particularly at Christmas, when present giving becomes the opposite of what is shown here.
Fran Knight

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