The Gift


32 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-7715-6955-6
DDC jC813'.54




Illustrations by Herb Larsen
Reviewed by Deborah Dowson

Deborah Dowson is a children’s librarian in Pickering, Ontario.


A young boy discovers his artistic ability in this realistic story set
in an Inuit settlement on the shores of Hudson Bay. Harry attempts to
understand carving as the ability to release a figure from soapstone,
and to become a carver like his father. The experience of creating his
first carving leads Harry to learn the meaning of “the gift.”

The book aims to inspire children to explore their own artistic
abilities. In addition, it instructs the reader in modern Inuit
settlement life by raising issues such as commerce, transportation, and
employment in a factual and serious manner. As noble as these aims are,
The Gift fails to unite these two incongruous objectives. The tone of
the work is grey and the language is stiff and clichéd. The setting of
“Povungnituk—Place of the Stinking Caribou” is realistic but
uninviting. While the grey pencil drawings capture the spirit of the
characters and carvings, they are unlikely to capture a reader’s
attention or interest. There are continuity errors, and the presentation
of instructional material interrupts the flow of the boy’s thoughts.
The result is awkward and confusing.

A surprising addendum to the story is an interview with the
illustrator, Herb Larsen, complete with photographs of the artist and
his work. “Discovering what you are good at,” Larsen observes,
“can be as exciting and fun as finding a private treasure.” The Gift
does not succeed in demonstrating that enthusiasm. Not a first-choice


Barnes, Michael., “The Gift,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,