Patricia C. McKissack’s final book is a harmony of thoughtfulness and feeling that speaks to the resilience of children.
Here is the publisher’s summary:
This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving.
“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.
I was first struck by the illustrations of this book. Harrison’s use of collage works brilliantly. Each page is filled with bittersweet texture that not only appeals to kids, but also nods to nostalgia. Fabrics, papers, and photograph snippets all serve as vehicles back in time for older readers and sources of wonder for younger readers. Harrison’s colors and patterns beg us to turn the page, if only to see what the next visual will convey. The diversity of media used in the illustrations also serves McKissack’s story - give to those in a variety of situations, with a variety of backgrounds. Give to those who are trying to piece together a world from scraps.
McKissack is unflinching from the first page. A note to parents: this book contains some heavy material, but McKissack handles it with grace and nuance while maintaining accessibility. While this is a story about some pretty painful things that happen in the life of a child, this isn’t one of those books that are about-kids-but-for-adults. No, this is a story for children, and James Otis’s intelligent, matter-of-fact voice allows it to move seamlessly from childlike curiosity to tough truths of life and back again.
The story also breaks down what it means to give “from the heart,” a phrase adults often present to children and then leave floating in their brains as a complete abstraction. The reader follows James Otis as he tries to think of anything he might give to a girl who lost her home in a fire. We see his careful choosing process and his doubling back, his excitement and his second guessing. We see him learn from Mama’s actions and explanations that to give from the heart is to give thoughtfully and sincerely.
What is Given from the Heart is a story that trusts its child readers to accompany James Otis on his quest for a heartfelt gift. It trusts kids to match its intelligence. How fantastic, to teach children that both emotion and logic exist side by side in the act of giving!
As always, happy reading!