The gift by Penny Matthews
Ill. by Martin McKenna. Scholastic, 2012. ISBN 1862916985.
(Ages: 3+) Highly recommended. Picture book. Christmas. The little brown bear sits on the shelf in the shop, surrounded by toys which offer so much more than he. Others sing and dance, clap their hands or are festooned with colour, all designed to attract a buyer. But all the plain brown bear has is a red ribbon tied around his neck. When his companion the green crocodile and he watch the other toys being sold, they lament that they are still left on the shelf. Bear gives the crocodile his ribbon, and sure enough the crocodile is sold. Bear falls behind the counter, and is overlooked yet again until he is restored to his spot on the shelf, where a baby in a pusher calls out 'bear', impelling its father to buy him for their tree. At home, the baby calls out again and the bear is given the best gift of all, a place in someone's heart.
This is one of those books where tissues are needed, the subtle text accompanied by the beautiful soft illustrations will draw an emotional response from all who read it and hear it read aloud. Everyone has had the feeling of being left out, of being overlooked, of feeling unloved, so the fate of the bear and the crocodile will immediately elicit a response. Younger children will not only hear a beautifully told text, they will be engaged in thinking about those less fortunate than themselves, those left alone at Christmas, and so begin to understand the wider issues that Christmas brings in our community. Older children may begin to discuss the idea of gift giving, and think about the way things are sold in shops, marketed and displayed. But the basic story is one that can be read over and over again, a beacon outshining most of the other books offered by publishers at Christmas.