cover image A Gift for Mama

A Gift for Mama

Linda Ravin Lodding, illus. by Alison Jay. Knopf, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-385-75331-9

The beauty and rich culture of historic Vienna course through this sweet, circular story from Lodding (The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister), in which a boy strives to procure the perfect birthday present for his mother. Armed with a single coin, Oskar quickly finds his purchase—a yellow rose—in the middle of the street market. But before he can bring the lovely gift home, an artist asks Oskar if he’ll trade the flower for a paintbrush (“I can paint a picture for Mama,” says an amenable Oskar, “the perfect present!”). So begins a folktale-flavored chain of exchanges that eventually leaves poor Oskar empty-handed. Luckily, one of his kind deeds is rewarded just in time, bringing the story full circle. Colorful storefronts, elegant carriages, and a stately opera house depicted in Jay’s (The Cloud Spinner) earthy palette and crackle varnish help evoke an earlier century. Her stylized forms—along with spirited background appearances by a cat, fox, and runaway dog—underscore the vibrancy of city life. An author’s note about Vienna’s role in inspiring the book is included. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: The Organisation. (Mar.)