Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: The Gift

Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan (illustrator)

In a quiet town, of a sort not found nowadays, lives a beautiful young girl. One summer day, she visits the woods with her mother and father. While her parents prepare the picnic, she seeks out buttercups and daisies for a flower necklace. As she does so, a wish forms in her mind – and to her surprise, a silver haired woman appears, ready to grant it.

This book looks at the whole life of a girl who one day went for a picnic, found a clearing and decides that this is where she wants to be buried. It sounds quite morbid but it really isn’t. It’s a book that celebrates life and all that happens within it. The story highlights the main event in the girl’s life, there is little to no character development, in fact we never even find out the girl’s name, but that doesn’t matter. Part of the magic of this book is that it could be about anybody. All through the book, and therefore her life, the girl returns to the clearing. She plants flowers and creates stone towers in order to really make the place her own, until she returns there last, in her dreams, on her deathbed. The ending to this book is really bittersweet. This is another that it’s quite difficult to put an age too. It is aimed at younger children, but I think it would take a certain amount of emotional maturity for them to really understand and enjoy it.

The illustrations are a delight. They are in a single colour on each page and the colour reflects the mood of the page, which almost gives it a dreamlike quality. Whilst there aren’t huge amounts of detail in specific objects and people there is so much going on within the pictures. This means the book can be read time and time again and the reader will still find new things within the pictures. This is a big plus point as the nature of the story means that it’s difficult to get really involved with it so it was good that I found that the pictures really brought it to life.

Verdict: A bittersweet story of the circle of life backed up by truly delightful pictures.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Barefoot Books Ltd
Publication Date: October 2010
Format: Hardback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book, Death
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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