The True Gift: A Christmas Story

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The True Gift: A Christmas Story Book Poster Image
Simple, lyrical, gentle tale of true giving.

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Children who read this may want to follow Liam's path in finding out about the emotions of animals, and there are many books and websites on the subject. The book also offers some details of country life.

Positive Messages

The story strongly, but without overt lecturing, conveys a message of giving and caring being the most important parts of the holidays, and of life, and that a true gift is its own reward.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Liam and Lily are models both of caring siblings and compassionate people who put others before themselves and inspire caring in those around them, even strangers.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a gentle book with absolutely nothing to be concerned about, and one that carries strong messages of love, caring, giving, and selflessness as the bringers of true joy and contentment, at the holidays or any other time.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7-year-old Written byhousmore June 4, 2011

Thoughtful and charming

Very short, thoughtful story, that gets its message across without being "preachy" or dull. Was a terrific Christmas gift for my daughter and nieces.
Kid, 10 years old October 9, 2011

True Gift

it was fabulos! i want to read it again and again.
Kid, 8 years old December 19, 2009


I think it is a good book for girls & boys because there is a brother & sister as the main characters. I would recommend this to fellow animal l... Continue reading

What's the story?

Lily and her younger brother Liam take their annual trip to their grandparents' farm for Christmas, loaded with books to read and plans for buying presents at the local general store. But Liam notices right away that their grandparents' last cow, White Cow, is now all alone, and he believes it is lonely. So he embarks on a plan, with his sister's initially reluctant help, to find out about the emotional life of cows, and then to do something about it.

Is it any good?

Nobody, but nobody, can make the simple joys of family love so breathtakingly clear as Patricia Maclachlan does. How is it that she's never done a Christmas story before? Could there be a more perfect match for the holiday season than her gorgeously simple, lyrical prose, her gentle way of revealing depths of character through dialog, her deep understanding of the human heart?

Not only is there no sex, drugs, violence, swearing, or anything else a parent might be concerned about; there are also, as in Maclachlan's other books, no villains either. She doesn't need them. How is it possible for a story so sweet and gentle to be so engrossing and so deeply moving, yet not for a moment cloying or sappy? She does it, in part, with prose that is drily matter-of-fact and earthy, yet manages at the same time to read like the best poetry ever written for children, with rhythms that carry readers along on currents of feeling. This is a book to read together with a child, curled up on a winter evening in bed or in front of a fireplace, and let those currents carry your child into sleep.

The b&w drawings are gentle and unobtrusive.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the emotional lives of animals. Do they have feelings? How can we know? Are their feelings like ours?

  • Why do Liam and Lily make the sacrifices they do? What draws them, especially Liam, to White Cow? Why is Lily at first reluctant to go along?

  • Liam and Lily are very close siblings. What can make siblings close? What drives them apart? Is it realistic for siblings to care for each other this way? Do you care for your siblings and other relatives? Why?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Holiday books

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