The Gift (Michael Speechley, Picture Puffin)
Rosie is a lonely little girl who misses her mum. Across the street from Rosie’s place is a scary and neglected-looking house. Rosie has never seen the person who lives there. She imagines her neighbour is a grumpy old woman who doesn’t want to be around anyone else. So, Rosie decides to leave her neighbour a gift. Remembering her mum’s ability to see beauty everywhere, Rosie decides to leave her neighbour a weed. Each day, she leaves a weed—the most unruly one she can find—and each day the weed disappears inside the house. When Rosie finally works up the courage to meet her neighbour, she discovers that she is in fact a young woman named Mrs Green who is just as lonely as Rosie is. Together, Rosie and Mrs Green turn her neglected garden back into a beautiful, colourful field of flowers. The illustrations in The Gift are moody and expressive. Michael Speechley contrasts the dark with the light: Rosie’s hair, clothes and the ribbons she ties around Mrs Green’s gifts are vibrant against the gloomy tones of the house and overgrown garden. This is a lovely, subtle book about grief, healing and never judging a proverbial book by its cover. It will be loved by children aged five and up.
Ellen Cregan is the marketing and events coordinator for Readings, and the First Book Club coordinator for Kill Your Darlings