Mary Poppins' creator spins a Christmas tale for grown-ups from a rather slender thread. Her setting is the present, London, but she returns to the scene of the stable where each animal gave his gift to the Christ child, for a compelling glimpse of what a gift truly is. The three children who would not relinquish their cherished, battered toys to the church Christmas poor are fascinated with the story of Reynard the fox' gift of cunning to the Child -- the gift beyond the domesticity of the comfortably enslaved domestic creatures, who retain or will regain what they have given. They embark upon fantasies of their own, enabling a flying swan to follow the route to the end of the world and the -- to sing its swan song for the Child. The author resists the temptation to change her children's hearts -- they remain in possession of their own would-be gifts. Another item directed to the Christmas market which has its value in a quiet, wry awareness.