Seasons Reading: The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park

The Third Gift
written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-20195-5
Grades: All
Reviewed from purchased copy.
All opinions expressed are solely my own.

BLURBFrom two extraordinary talents, a beautifully crafted picture book for the Christmas season. The three wise men, or the three kings, are familiar figures in the Christmas tradition. Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park has taken the brief biblical references to the three as the starting point for a new story. In it we meet a boy who is learning his father’s trade; a man who gathers resin from certain trees; a merchant in the marketplace; and three strangers in brightly colored robes who are shopping for a gift for a baby. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline with exquisite paintings, this simple, moving tale of ordinary people involved in an extraordinary event brings new resonance to the well-known gift list of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  

What do you get when you combine a Newbery winning author and a fabulous illustrator? You get a book like this one.  The story is told beautifully in just the right amount of words and illustrations that put you, the reader, into the background of the story.  I felt almost like I was there watching the young boy and his father harvest tree resin. 

I remember the first time I heard the story of the wise men, I, like many others, had no idea what frankincense and myrrh were.  Gold is pretty self-explanatory, but frankincense and myrrh?  I had no clue.  I admit I just barely learned that frankincense came from trees.  This book taught me that myrrh also comes from trees and has symbolic relevance to Jesus Christ beyond being a valuable gift.  I had no idea that Myrrh was traditionally used primarily at funerals to show respect and caring to the departed.  I appreciated the author's note at the end explaining the origins of the story and the author's interest in the subject.

 As for the illustrations, what can I say beyond that they are gorgeous.  They show so beautifully the tender story of a father patiently teaching his son the art of harvesting the trees.  What a sweet and powerfully symbolic story.  I can't recommend this book highly enough.  I loved it, definitely one of my favorites this year.


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