HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The True Gift: A Christmas Story
Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrator: Brian Floca
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, reprinted in 2013
Related website: http://www.scholastic.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 7 – 11
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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MacLachlan, Patricia. The True Gift: A Christmas Story (published in 2009 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 1320 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10020; republished in 2011 by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). Lily and her brother Liam, who is three years younger, always spend the ten days of their Christmas vacation from school at their grandparents’ farm where they walk to the lilac library to get books, trim the tree, and give each other gifts. Grandpa, who works for the newspaper, used to have a little herd of cows, but now only White Cow is left. Grandpa also used to keep a donkey named Rosie for a neighbor, but the neighbor had bought more land, and Rosie went home. White Cow is lonely, so Liam determines to get her a gift. What will it be? How will he get the money to buy it? And where did White Cow come from anyway?
Author Patricia MacLachlan, who won a Newbery Medal for Sarah, Plain and Tall, and illustrator Brian Floca, who provides full-page graphite and ebony pencil drawings, combine their efforts to tell a cute and moving holiday story. One critic, who owns a large herd of cows and cares for them daily, objected to the fact that “the boy in the story is acting under the assumption that the cow has human feelings.” Hey! It’s a kid’s book. If children can understand the plight of Bambi the deer in the forest or the talking animals of Redwall—or even if they have a pet dog or cat in their home—they should have no problem with Liam’s concern that White Cow might feel lonely. It’s just the way that youngsters think. I found the book sweet and even poignant.