Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
Windy Hollow Books (2013).
At first glance The Gift is a simple visual tale of a cat helping his friend by bringing her food, a fish, which is his gift to her. As the story unfolds the cat loses his friend and decides to go on a journey to find her and to give her his gift. During his journey he faces many trials and tribulations but eventually wins through and finds many unexpected gifts along the way.
I love lots of things about The Gift. For a start, one of the main characters is a marmalade cat and my first cat was that colour. It's a wordless picture book, and even though words and writing are my passion, I also love the way wordless picture books encourage children's creativity and imagination. The theme is beautiful - kids will be gently prompted to think about friendship, and the friends in their own lives. And the artwork is special - it's very textural, with the look of acrylics on canvas. Gilmartin has given children lots to look at and think about: insets into the main spreads, paw prints to follow, and different techniques to suggest movement and a timeline.
Wordless picture books are a wonderful resource for home or school. One way I love to use them is to encourage kids to tell stories with them. When kids explain their version of a story to a partner, they are reinforcing their literacy skills and learning to think sequentially. This is a way for less-able readers to shine too, because they're not dependent on text. Wordless picture books like The Gift are an excellent resource for teaching Visual Literacy - children need to look carefully at the illustrations to infer and predict.
You can download thought-provoking Teacher Notes from Gilmartin's website.
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