Young James Otis and his mama know poverty, grief, and losses of various kinds. Mama reassures her worried son, “Long as we have our health and strength, we are blessed, James Otis.”
Still, things don’t improve for the beleaguered mother and son.
One Sunday, as Mama and James Otis attend the worship service, Reverend Dennis reminds his congregation to begin collecting goods for “love boxes” to be delivered to needy families. He also shares the sad news that Irene Temple and her daughter have lost everything in a fire. Then he adds, “Remember, what is given from the heart reaches the heart.”
When Mama tells James Otis that they need to help out the Temples, he objects, insisting they have nothing themselves. How can they help others? Mama suggests that James Otis find “a li’l bit of something” for Sarah Temple, who is two years younger than he is. Her suggestion only exacerbates the boy’s conundrum. Now he needs to come up with something for a little girl!
James considers what he has to offer—the blue ribbon he won in the school spelling bee; his treasured shiny rock; his spit-covered whistle; his used crayons; his pencil, worn to a nub—but decides that each item is inadequate. When he comes up with a surprising, creative idea, he sets to work, making a gift for Sarah that is truly from his heart.
In this tender, meaningful picture book set in a loving church community, the late Patricia McKissack celebrates generosity and kindness. April Harrison’s lovely, engaging mixed media illustrations, including collage and found objects, portray the deep love between a mother and son, and the compassion found in the company of God’s people. (Schwartz & Wade)