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New children’s book blends holiday traditions into heartwarming tale

Nobody likes getting presents more than you do.

You love the sound of the paper as it rrrrrrrrrips off. You like the shiny bows — for at least a minute before they hit the ground. The reason for the gift doesn’t matter because you know there’s going to be something good inside the package, and you’re always careful to say “thank you” because it’s the nice thing to do.

You love getting presents — but do you know how much fun it is to give them? In the new book, “Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift” by Dara Goldman, you’ll see that giving is sometimes better than getting.

For Boris and Stella, the city was a perfect place to live. Their work was close; every day, Stella baked desserts at the bakery next door, and every night, Boris went downstairs and played the piano, filling the air with the songs he learned growing up in Russia .

Stella and Boris were very happy. They didn’t have a lot of money, but they had each other and that was enough.

But one winter, Stella realized that it was almost time for Hanukkah. She shook her savings jar — there wasn’t much in there — then she figured out where to get more money. She took her little pine tree, the one that came from her family’s farm in Italy, and she sold it to the owner of a local flower shop. That would give her enough coins to buy a dreidel for Boris’s collection.

Back home, Boris was thinking. Christmas was coming, and he wanted to give Stella something beautiful. But there wasn’t much in his savings jar, so he got an idea. He would sell his dreidel collection, the one that his parents gave him for Hanukkah when he was little. That would give him just enough to buy something “dazzling” for Stella’s little pine tree.

On the last night of Hanukkah, after lighting the candles of the menorah, Stella had a wonderful gift to give Boris. But before she could hand him the box — “Bozhe Moi!” — Boris noticed something missing. And just after he opened her gift — “Mamma Mia!” — Stella noticed something missing, too…

So your Christmas tree is decorated with dreidels and gelt. Or your Hanukkah celebration includes candy canes and wreaths. Whatever holiday your family holds dear, “Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift” lives up to its perfect title.

Savvy adults may quickly notice something here, though: Goldman drew from classic literature to convert this “Gift of the Magi”-like tale of love and sacrifice into something easier for smaller children to understand. Indeed, the adorable illustrations here are very kid-friendly, so if your child is too young to know the O. Henry story (or if you’re unfamiliar), that’s perfectly okay.

If the “’tis better to give than receive” message is something your 4- to 8-year-old needs this holiday season, here’s a good start for teaching that lesson. For them, “Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift” is a book they’ll rrrrrrrrip into.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.

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