THE GIFT by Joseph Kertes


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 6 & up
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 A cautionary tale about sharing the warmth of holiday spirit that may leave most readers chilled. In Toronto in 1959, Jacob Beck, a Jewish boy who recently fled from war-ravaged Hungary, envies his Christian friends for the gifts, feasts, and general merriment of the Christmas season. When his friend Larry invites him to spend Christmas lunch with his family, Jacob is thrilled, persuading his dubious parents to allow him to attend. As the neighborhood stores close, he rushes to find the perfect gift for his friend. When the boys exchange presents, Jacob hugs the comics he receives while Larry is less than enthusiastic about the plaster cast of ``The Last Supper'' his friend so painstakingly selected. With tears in his eyes, Jacob rushes out; the boys make up, but Jacob is left staring into the window of his home as his parents light their menorah. While the images of the burning candles persist, so does the jarring, abrupt finish to the story, leaving readers bereft of closure. Kertes limits Jacob's experience of Christmas to a materialistic one and creates an imbalance by weighing the less-developed characters of Larry's family against the warmth and respect found in Jacob's. The true spirit of Christmas remains unkindled; instead, Kertes hints that people should keep to their own kind and to their own traditions. It's a bleak lesson, in an age of attempts at multiculturalism and tolerance, unleavened by pretty illustrations. (Fiction. 6+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-88899-235-1
Page count: 39pp
Publisher: Groundwood
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1996