________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 10. . . .November 8, 2013


The Best Gifts.

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Illustrated by Elly Mackay.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1998/2013.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55455-283-2.

Subject Heading:
Mother and child-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

*** /4



When Sara was born, friends and family welcomed her with joy and special gifts. Her parents opened the gifts and thanked everyone for their thoughtfulness. When all the visitors had left, Sara's father put the gifts away. Then he sat on the bed as Sara's mother opened her nightgown and drew their daughter near. Sara was wrapped in love and a light scent of sandalwood as the warmth of her mother's milk swirled in her mouth and filled her tiny stomach.


The rest of the The Best Gift is devoted to the simple, but beautifully told, story of Sara's life. Readers follow her through several milestones of her life - birthday parties, graduation, leaving home to pursue a future. As Sara grows, she realizes that her "childhood might be over, but like the scent (of sandalwood), the memories stayed". She finds her true love and has a child of her own years later. She also breastfeeds her son, and the story comes full circle.

internal art     Throughout, Sara's parents are a constant presence. The special events in her life are always marked by gifts. At each of these occasions, the refrain, “opened gifts and thanked everyone for their thoughtfulness", is repeated. But, in the end, it is not the gifts that are purchased which are prized. It is the love, warmth and time spent with a child that is really of importance. The idea that one of the best presents a child can receive is providing nourishment through breastfeeding is clearly implied. However one feels about this issue, this idea is conveyed in a subtle tone, and it is the first book that I have come across that addresses this issue in such a loving and natural way.

     There is an elegance to the text, and Skrypuch conveys a comforting, peaceful mood to her story. This tranquillity is mirrored by the soft and colourful illustrations done in watercolours and paper artwork. The predominant hues are of a red/orange combination, with the beauty of nature playing a significant role. The dreamlike quality of the illustrations is appealing and serves the story well. McKay also presents a variety of interesting perspectives in her drawings. This title that was first published in 1998 is now accompanied by this lovely new artwork.

     The Best Gifts has a special market and audience. It is relevant to new parents and to those who are thinking about the value of breastfeeding. This title is suitable as a read-aloud by a parent to a children in a private setting, especially if the child happens to be an older sibling with a new baby in the house.

     For added value, the book includes information on breastfeeding, resources, support groups and a web site that promotes this idea.


Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.