At the back of The Third Gift, in the last sentence of her author’s note, Linda Sue Park writes that “stories can help remind us that we are as much a part of [history] as those whose names dominate the headlines.” Her latest book, The Third Gift, is a tale illustrating how the lives of the humble folk, the “everymen” of the world, often intersect with those of the mighty at crucial points in history. The father and son at the center of the story are so ordinary that Park doesn’t even give them names. They could, indeed, be anyone.
It’s evident, however, that the two are far more than ordinary to each other. The boy speaks reverently of his father’s abilities. The father is patiently intent on teaching his son his craft.
And an extraordinary skill it is. He is a collector of “tears,” the small globules of hardened sap that appear when the bark of a certain tree is slit in a very specific way. The trees are native to the desert regions of the Middle East and northeastern Africa. The pearls of sap are in fact myrrh and although the gorgeous illustrations have a dateless appearance, the time is actually revealed to be about 2,000 years ago.
As you may have guessed, this is a Christmas story of sorts. It tells of how thousands of years ago, the Magi might have obtained a perfect globe of myrrh, used as both incense and as an embalming oil, to present along with their gold and frankincense; to the “new king” they sought.
The exquisite art work exudes light and life. The drawings have a photographic quality that draws the reader into the scene adding a note of reality to a fictitious tale. They are the perfect foil for Ms. Park’s story which seems to be part historical fiction and fairy tale.
I foresee The Third Gift becoming a family favorite and future Christmas classic.
Posted by: Eileen