By Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Alea Marley. Little Bee Books, 2018. 40 pages. $17.99/hardcover. Recommended for ages 4 and up.Buy from QuakerBooks
Loretta’s Gift is a beautiful story about a young girl who wants to find the perfect gift for her new cousin. When everyone is adding presents to the pile at the baby shower, Loretta is sad that she can’t contribute anything, and when the same thing happens again at her cousin’s first birthday party, she gets even sadder. Then her aunt tells her that she is the best present her baby cousin ever got, and Loretta realizes that “her love was better than anything that came in a box. And Gabe would never outgrow it—no matter how many birthdays he had.” The sweet pictures complement the simple text, with earthy, muted colors and an emphasis on Loretta’s varied expressions. It’s a nice bonus that the people in the family have a range of skin tones, and the love among them is palpable.
While there is no explicit mention of religion or spirituality, this book could be an excellent one to read with a First-day school class considering simplicity. It offers plenty of food for thought regarding the things people need, including material items such as clothing and (in the case of the new baby) diapers, services such as mashing bananas and feeding, and the less tangible things like playing and hugging. It could also start a discussion of gifts in the spiritual sense: what are the things we each contribute to our families and communities? Loretta finds all sorts of ways to help her family and her baby cousin, from chores to laughter. It’s a book that could help children as young as preschool think about different kinds of gifts, the things we do for each other, as well as the boxes with bows. And older children and adults can always use the reminder, as well, that we all need the opportunity to contribute, and help in naming our gifts.