Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Gift

The GiftThe exceptional talents of Carol Ann Duffy and papercut artist Rob Ryan combine to present the story of a girl’s journey through life and the desires that shape it. With a kind of magic that is timeless, The Gift speaks to everyone who wonders about the mysteries that lie at the heart of the human experience.

I have had this book on my wish list for quite a while now, and finally ordered it earlier this month.   So many people have told me how beautiful this book is, and they were so, so, SO right.

It's hard to believe, but each gorgeous and intricate illustration was handcut from a single sheet of paper by Rob Ryan, then individually colored by spray paint and photographed.  Each page is a different color, and every single one of them is a work of art that I would gladly hang on my walls.

The words are beautiful as well; here is my favorite part, when a young girl kneels in a little clearing making daisy chains:

Bees prayed for honey at a wild rose bush.  A thought suddenly came to the girl - as urgent and vivid as a butterfly opening its orange wings - that she wanted to be buried in this plot of land when she died.

I realize that sounds a bit morbid for a children's book, but I promise you everything turns out beautifully in the end!

Like many children adopted from Ethiopia, my daughter Elfe has already experienced the death of someone close to her at a very young age.  She is also extremely curious and inquisitive, as well as highly verbal - which is another way of saying she asks a lot of questions!  As a long-time agnostic, I have struggled mightily to answer her questions about what happens after death in a way that feels "true" to me but also gives her some comfort and a sense of security.  The Gift is a book that accomplishes exactly that in my opinion.

The Gift is intended for children ages 8 and up, but my somewhat precocious and extremely intuitive book-loving almost-five-year old was able to follow along.  The language of the book is simple yet full of gorgeous imagery, so even children younger than 8 can get something from it.  We will be reading this book for a long time to come, and I think we will both draw comfort from it.

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