Review + Teachers’ Notes: ‘The Gift’

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Title: ‘The Gift’
Author: Michael Speechley
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Age Range: lower primary/middle primary – adult
Themes: kindness, friendship, giving, death, grieving, memories

‘If you look long and hard enough, you’ll see the beauty in everything.’

‘The Gift’

It was no surprise that ‘The Gift’ was recently announced as having been awarded a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book Award. As with Speechleys previous book, ‘The All New Must Have Orange 430’ (review here), ‘The Gift’ is a book that can, and should, be read and poured over many times over. Speechley has a knack for writing books which encourage young people to challenge their thinking, engage in robust literary and social discussion, and dive deeply into sophisticated artwork that has layers of meaning to unravel.

The house across the road looks abandoned, but Rosie knows someone lives there. She decides to give her mystery neighbour a gift – something different, something unusual, something surprising. Something her mum would have been proud of.

With a gentle touch, Michael Speechley covers grief, loneliness and unexpected friendship. He balances the light with the dark and leaves readers young and old with a sense of hope that the world is a truly remarkable place, when kindness, empathy and friendship is present.


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‘The Gift’


FOLLOW IT UP IN THE HOME, CLASSROOM OR LIBRARY

Download our Teachers’ Notes prepared by teacher Melissa Kroeger for Children’s Books Daily in context with the Australian Curriculum as a PDF document here. Penguin has also prepared an excellent downloadable activity pack for ‘The Gift’ here.

DISCUSSION STARTERS

  • What do you notice about the illustrations on the front cover? Does it tell you anything about the book?
  • Read the blurb on the back cover. What do you think Rosie will give her mystery neighbour? Are there any clues on the front and back covers?
  • What is something you could give to a mysterious neighbour that is different, unusual and surprising?
  • On the first double page illustrations, what tells you that the house is unloved and possibly abandoned? How has Michael Speechley made the house stand out? What do you think tells Rosie that someone lives there?
  • Page 5 shows Rosie looking through the window. What else do you notice in the picture? Turn over to page 6. How are the two pages linked? What has Michael Speechley done?
  • Rosie’s mum used to say ‘If you look long and hard enough, you’ll see the beauty in everything’. What does this mean to you? Give an example.
  • Why do you think Rosie gives the mystery neighbour a great big, prickly weed? How would you feel if someone gave you one?
  • Analyse page 21 – inside the neighbour’s house. What do you notice?
  • What could Rosie and Mrs Green share between them?
  • Where had all of the weeds gone? How did the beautiful flowers get there?
  • The last page shows three birds – two large and one small. What do you think it means?
  • Now go back and check out the amazing illustrations that Speechley has hidden a whole wonder of things in…
  • Compare and contrast Pages 10 and 18. They are drawn with the same outlook through the courtyard.
  • The front cover shows the ‘f’ designed differently. What is it? Where else in the book can you find it? Does it represent or mean anything?
  • There are flowers drawn all throughout the book. Go back and find them hiding!

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