Cover Image

Gift Days by K.-L. Winters

Winters, Kari-Lynn. Gift Days. Illus. Stephen Taylor. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012. Print.

A young Ugandan girl, Nassali, watches her brother go to school every day, and wishes she could go too.  She wants to learn to read but her time is filled with taking care of her family, her responsibility since the death of her mother.  How her life changes, and how she learns to read is told through this picture book. The author, Kari-Lynn Winters, is a Canadian author and literacy researcher and a faculty member in Teacher Education at Brock University.  She is a well-known author of numerous picture books.

The book is illustrated by Stephen Taylor, a graduate of the Ontario College of Art, and frequent Illustrator of children’s books.  The illustrations are charming and add a great deal of depth to the story.  They do an excellent job of conveying how alone and left out Nassali feels as her brother goes to school every day, and her joy and sense of pride when she learns to read.

The story unfortunately, is not as engaging as the illustrations.  The language is quite dry and somewhat didactic, seemingly at odds with the picture book format.  There are some disconnections in the story. It is unclear, for example, why the brother decides to teach Nassali to read.  For this reason it is difficult to determine the intended audience.  The format suggests primary school students, but the content suggests an older audience.

This book would be useful as an instructional resource in an elementary school setting for a unit on gender issues or development. It is not, however, likely to engage a self-directed reader of any age.

Reviewer:  Margaret Law
Recommended with reservations: 2 out of 4 stars

Margaret Law is the Associate University Librarian (International Relations) at the University of Alberta, responsible for developing international library partnerships.  Previously, she was a public librarian, primarily involved with the development of rural libraries in Alberta.