“The Gift of the Magi” By O. Henry; illustrations by P.J. Lynch
Christmas is usually in large part about gift giving. We buy them, wrap them and watch with rapt pleasure as they are opened and stockings are brought down from the fire place and eagerly plowed through.
But, what is the meaning of the gift giving, and just what are we trying to give inside those be-ribboned packages?
To answer that question, I have always found delight, both in a movie and a short story, that illuminates the joy of gift giving at Christmas. The short story has an unintended consequence as a result of the selflessness involved in providing a gift, and the other, is a movie that, to me, says we are gifts to each other, and the smallest of gestures can make a difference in a life that seems a bit lost along the journey of life. We are both givers and receivers in life.
I love the movie, “The Bishop’s Wife.” and I am not talking about the remake with Denzel Washington, but the essential 1947 classic version, starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven.
If, by chance, you have missed it, it’s perfect Christmas viewing for young readers. If you want to let them see movie making and story lines at their best with heart and heft, its narrative includes an angel visiting earth the week before Christmas to provide guidance to a host of characters at varied crossroads in their lives during the Christmas crunch. And, it sums up in its final scene, provided in the link below, the reason we want to rush to buy Christmas gifts for the ones we love, and why we often miss the mark.
But love is usually our motivation and what we long to give one another. The Christmas Eve sermon at the end of the movie is entitled, “An Empty Stocking.” And, what’s more, it’s written by an angel on a typewriter that listens; then types. You have to admit, that’s pretty miraculous by 1947 standards of technology.
Characters include the bishop, his wife and daughter, a maid, a secretary to the bishop, a taxi driver who is a kid at heart, a cold and controlling rich woman philanthropist, a stodgy professor of ancient studies trying to write THE book on the subject for umpteen years and some kids that have a serious snow ball fight that will renew your wanting to pitch right into the battle.
And, if your young reader has not read the Christmas short story by O. Henry called “The Gift of the Magi,” this picture book version too, is a great introduction to the reason behind gift giving at Christmas…and its cost. Within its telling, is the tale of a poor young couple named Della and Jim, striving to give each other their heart’s desire for Christmas. And each is selfless in the giving, for in buying for their spouse, husband and wife each part without regret, with something they hold dear.
The ending’s ironic revelation is not to be missed, for it tells us the Christmas present’s success is in the intention and not the gift itself.
P.J. Lynch said of his desire to illustrate this classic:
This is a story I always wanted to illustrate, particularly
after I first visited New York and saw streets there that
had hardly changed since O. Henry’s time. What really
attracted me to it, though, was the very real relationship
of Della and Jim, which is at its heart.
P.J. Lynch’s soft artistic and intimate take on the large and busy streets crammed with people, stands in contrast to the intimacy of the tiny and humble apartment that the couple shares. It makes the sentimental O. Henry tale spring to life as it provides a setting and symbols of the true gifts of love, devotion and self-sacrifice at Christmas.
It’s a gift of the magi come to life.
Also, please read P. J. Lynch’s P.J. Lynch’s prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal winning picture book of 1995 called, “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.” He won the same medal again in 1997 for his picture book, “When ,Jessie Came Across the Sea.
Please share with your young reader and, hopefully, beginning classic movie buff, “The Bishop’s Wife,” dovetailed with O. Henry and P.J. Lynch’s pairing in “The Gift of the Magi” plus Lynch’s “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey”.
They are gifts worth sharing.
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