The sentimental short story is presented in an elegant edition with moody illustrations reminiscent of antique sepia photographs.
The story, first published as a book in 1906, is rather flowery and wordy, with old-fashioned constructions such as “the silent imputation of parsimony.” The plot revolves around a young couple, Della and Jim, who live a Spartan life in their tiny flat. Each wants to buy a special Christmas gift for the other, but there is only a little money for presents. Della sells her beautiful, knee-length hair to buy a watch chain for Jim’s prized pocket watch, but at the same time, Jim sells his watch to buy a set of hair combs for Della. They realize that their love for each other is their real gift that they must treasure. The oversized, full-page illustrations are in muted shades of browns and grays, with the only touch of color in Della’s muted, rose-colored blouse and complementary roses in the Art Nouveau style decorating each page of text. Each rose is larger than the one preceding, and the stylized flowers are repeated in elegant endpapers printed with twining roses and vines.
Though the story is long and of another era, Henry’s touching account of young love at Christmas has an enduring appeal. (Picture book. 10 & up)