Somehow Louise brought not one but two illustrated versions of O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi” home from the library a few weeks ago. I’ll admit I put her off for several days about reading one of them; it takes me quite a while after Christmas to even think about reading yet another Christmas story (like usually the next Christmas!) Plus, I knew it to be a somewhat lengthy story, and our read-aloud time is precious so I guard it carefully. I finally gave in to her one day last week, and I was surprised by quite a few things.
First, this is no “dumbed down” version of the story. We encountered words like parsimony and mendicancy and imputation in the first paragraph. I was pleased to be able to hear the narrator’s voice in this story, instead of some milk-toast adaptation of it. Second, it’s not as long as I thought–I bet I read it, start to finish, in ten minutes or less. Third, my girls were spellbound. Mesmerized. Yes, that’s usually their reaction to most stories, honestly. But this one was oh so easy to read with feeling and fervor, despite the twenty-five dollar words hiding here and there in the sentences. I have to admit that I grew a little pedantic after reading this story, pointing out to the girls how important sacrificial giving is, that like David we shouldn’t give to God that which costs us nothing. They got the message, and what a poignant and beautiful vehicle through which to deliver it. Why did I wait so long to read this one?
If all of that isn’t enough, this version itself is gorgeous. Lisbeth Zwerger‘s illustrations, one facing each page of text, are dramatic and evocative of the strong emotion in the story. Della’s beautiful hair swirls and floats about her. Jim is blonde and young-looking in this story, which upset my preconceived ideas about him, but his demeanor is spot-on. Add this one to your TBR list for Christmas 2012, or better yet, read it now and then, too. I give this version of O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” a Highly Recommended.
Have you ever put off reading a certain book to your children? Why?
(Oh, and if you’re looking for inspiration for the holiday that’s actually coming up next week, check out this post.)