Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Gift for All Seasons

I recently had the pleasure of spending an evening with one of my daughters at her school with her classmates and their parents for an evening of reading together. Motivated, I'm sure, by the gift-giving season, the English teachers who ran this program selected the classic story of giving and receiving, The Gift of the Magi, for a read aloud. The experience was meaningful and moving. This is the story of a young, poor couple in love who each sacrifice their greatest material treasure, her hair and his watch, to buy happiness for the other. Just in case you're one of the few people unfamiliar with this story, I won't spoil the twist at the end. Suffice it to say that the greatest gift each could ever want turned out to be one another and the love they shared. I love a good story and The Gift of the Magi is a really good story.

Storytelling is a talent and a great story is an invaluable gift. Sitting on my desk beside me at the moment is another one of those picture books I think I'd like to give to everyone I know, regardless of age. Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas' Clever Jack Takes the Cake charmingly captures the craft and immeasurable value of a good story. Jack, like Jim and Della in The Gift of the Magi, is poor. He is invited to the princess' birthday party and cleverly finds a way to assemble ingredients and bake her a beautiful cake. Though he carefully transports the cake to the palace, he has a series of adventures along the way and has nothing left for the princess by the time he reaches her. As always, I have no intention of spoiling the story for you and want you to read it for yourself  so go buy the book and find out how clever Jack is! The story is completely different from and yet reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite children's books, Phoebe Gilman's Something from Nothing. I am awed by the power of words and there is nothing I enjoy more than getting lost in a good story. As much as I love shoes and jewelry, for me, a good story is the greatest gift (next to my darling daughters and wonderful husband, of course). In life we are all the authors of our own stories - one can only hope there's at least a little Clever Jack in each of us.

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