________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 12. . . .November 20, 2015


The Smallest Gift of Christmas.

Peter H. Reynolds.
Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2015.
40 pp., hardcover, $13.00.
ISBN 978-0-7636-7981-1.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Aileen Wortley.

*** /4



In the distance, he saw a present wedged between two buildings. Now THAT Roland thought, that is pretty big. But still not big enough! Roland was determined. So he set off to search the universe. He searched and searched but all he could see were billions of stars. Roland peered into his telescope. He could just make out a tiny dot in the distance. Earth! His home, his family…smaller and smaller. Roland realized that he was very VERY far from home and that if he waited a heartbeat longer, that little dot would disappear. Roland never thought he’d want something so small so badly.


Like most children, Roland awakes on Christmas morning with only one thing on his mind – his presents! When he eagerly rushes downstairs, he is disgusted to find the gift awaiting him is really tiny. He sets out to find a bigger gift, throwing a few temper tantrums on the way as nothing satisfies his greed. At last he sets off to scour the universe for the gift to surpass all gifts. As he does so, he looks back through the rocket window and sees his home as a small dot in the distance and disappearing fast. Suddenly, that tiny dot becomes the most desirable thing in the world, and his yen for a large gift suddenly seems insignificant.

     Most of us can recognize a Roland in somebody we know, albeit someone who does not go to such extremes to satisfy his covetous instincts! The story will undoubtedly engage children’s attention. They will recognize the obnoxious aspects of Roland and will feel superior as they observe his inappropriate behaviour! Similarly, they will relate to the outcome and enjoy the warm and gentle ending that gets one’s values in perspective. As a story, it works well although the reader longs to know more about Roland and especially his reunion with his family.

     This tiny stocking stuffer version of the 2013 edition is an attractive book with short clear simple text (beautifully hand-lettered by the author) facing each page of illustrations. The digitally created illustrations are minimalistic but sweetly compelling with lots of festive green and red throughout. Surrounding white space makes a dramatic contrast. The figures, though simple, convey emotion and a certain whimsy. This edition includes a picture frame tree ornament in which children are invited to add a picture of their family, a special loved one or their home, which is a nice touch that emphasises the point of the story.

     It’s a good message that doesn’t hit readers over the head but makes one realise, once again, that the everyday things we often take for granted are best!! Children aged 3-7 will enjoy The Smallest Gift of Christmas as will their parents. It would also make a good read-aloud for classrooms and library programmes.


Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian living in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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