Reviews

Winner of the Reader’s Choice Award by kidsoutandabout.com for best Hanukah book and third place recipient for best Christmas book!

Holiday High Notes

Boris and Stella are thrilled to have been included in the Horn Book's annual selection of new holiday books. Read the review...

Kindness Counts: Great Books for Nurturing Compassion 

School Library Journal  by Joy Fleishhacker on November 25, 2013 

These superb offerings about caring and kindness make fitting choices for sharing with youngsters as we enter the holiday season. Perceptive but never preachy, these picture books also present children with enlightening instances of empathy, generosity, and compassion, demonstrating a standard of positive behavior that will go far in preventing bullying.. 

It’s true love for a pair of bears, and though neither one has very much money, both have generous hearts. Stella readily sells a cherished pine tree from her family’s farm in Italy to buy Boris a dreidel for Hanukkah; meanwhile, Boris willingly barters his beloved childhood dreidel collection, brought from Russia, to purchase a glittering glass star to top Stella’s Christmas tree. Illustrated with cozy cartoon artwork, this affectionate and accessible reimagining of O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” celebrates different cultural traditions and sends a moving message about the true spirit of giving and receiving.    See article ...

 

New Children's Book Blends Holiday Tradition with Heartwarming Tale   

By Terri Schlichenmeyer  - Writes children's book reviews weekly in the View newspapers - Syndicated!

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.   See article ...

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

 

Publishers Weekly

Reviewed on September 16, 2013

In this retelling of the holiday classic The Gift of the Magi, Boris, a pianist, wants to give his friend Stella a gift for Christmas; Stella is a baker who wants to wants to give Boris a Hanukkah gift. Both sell something valuable in order to afford a gift for the other, and discover what is most valuable in the process. Goldman’s ursine Boris and Stella look warm and fuzzy, and the blues in her palette visually tie together Hanukkah and the night skies of Christmas. Books that speak to both Jewish and Christian holiday traditions are rare, and this sweet tale of friendship and generosity is an ideal gift for children of interfaith families. Ages 6–8. (Sept.)

 

School Library Journal   

Reviewed on September 16, 2013

 K-Gr 3–Goldman makes O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” accessible to younger readers and successfully keeps the tenderness and warmth of the original short story. An Italian bear named Stella celebrates Christmas; her bear friend, Boris, from Russia, celebrates Hanukkah. Stella sells her most precious possession, a pine tree from her family farm, to buy Boris a dreidel. Meanwhile, Boris sells his childhood dreidel collection and buys a star ornament for Stella’s tree. When the holiday arrives and presents are exchanged, they realize what they have done, but their love for each other helps them feel better about their decisions. The juxtaposition of the two different religions and nationalities reflects our diverse world and offers a message of acceptance. The lush watercolor illustrations depicting the holidays in a quaint town carry the same emotions of love and devotion as her text. Even the font, resembling handwriting, lends a cozy, personal touch. Perfect for one-on-one or small group read-alouds. – Maureen Wade, formerly at Los Angeles Public Library

 

Kirkus Reviews    

Reviewed on September 1, 2013

A pair of big-city bears celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas Eve in their shared apartment in this sweet, age-appropriate story that borrows the structure of O. Henry’s classic Christmas story, “The Gift of the Magi.”

Boris is a musician who grew up in Russia; he celebrates Hanukkah. Stella is a baker whose family came from Italy; she celebrates Christmas. Each wants to buy a special present for the other for the holiday, but both bears have just a few coins in their individual banks. Stella sells her small but beloved Christmas tree, growing outside in a pot on their balcony, and uses the proceeds to buy a new dreidel from Israel for Boris. At the same time, Boris sells his dreidel collection to buy a sparkling glass star for the top of Stella’s tree. Inviting illustrations are filled with the details of the bears’ cozy apartment and their joint celebration of the eighth night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, complete with potato latkes and Italian panettone cake. A neat, touching conclusion shows the bears celebrating and making plans for starting a new collection of dreidels, as well as growing a new Christmas tree with seeds from a pine cone from the original tree.

An inclusive, accessible interpretation of O. Henry’s beloved story and a “perfect gift” for families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. (Picture book. 4-8)

 

The Horn Book

Reviewed on September 13, 2013

Bears Boris, a Russian musician, and Stella, an Italian baker, are in love. When the eighth night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve, each sells his or her most treasured possessions (Stella, her pine tree; Boris, his dreidel collection) for money to buy the other a special gift. Goldman brings a new angle to “The Gift of the Magi” story by having the characters of different faiths celebrate each other’s traditions. The illustrations express the warm glow of the holidays, with gentle visual humor throughout.

Washington Parent

This sweet Christmas/Hanukkah story re-imagines O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" with two bears instead of a human couple. In a nameless American city, Boris, a Russian emigre, plays the piano at the restaurant beside Stella's Italian bakery. She loves his music, he loves her cakes, and they both love their time together. With the holidays fast approaching, they each want to give the other the perfect gift. Stella sells her potted pine tree, presented to her as a seedling by her father in Italy, and buys Boris a beautiful dreidel. Boris, in turn, sells his collection of dreidels in order to purchase a "dazzling glass star" for the top of Stella's tree. At gift-giving time, the two friends are amazed at the generosity of the other. Boris immediately starts another dreidel collection and Stella decides to grow a new pine tree from the pine cone dropped by her first. A bright, beguiling book.  Read the review ...

Marc Pollick, President and Founder  - The Giving Back Fund

Reviewed on October 1, 2013

Every once in awhile a book comes along that reaches out and touches your soul.  In Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift, author and illustrator Dara Goldman offers a gift to children everywhere replete with a timeless message of gratitude and generosity.  How appropriate for the holiday season!  The brightly colored pictures are so endearing and evocative that the artwork literally competes for your attention with the very moving storyline.  And yet they are woven together masterfully and delightfully.  You almost can't wait to turn the page to be able to enjoy the next set of pictures.  

At the heart of the story is the selflessness displayed by boyfriend and girlfriend bears Boris and Stella.  It called to mind a phrase from a book I once read as a young teenager. "Life's greatest possessions, are those which when shared, multiply; those which when divided are not diminished." I think if children can learn that concept--if all humans could learn and manifest that concept, our world would be ever so much more peaceful and harmonious. This beautifully illustrated book, eloquently exemplifies that concept. Thank you Ms. Goldman for contributing to the increase of kindness and giving in the world! 

 

Feathered Quill Book Review

Reviewed on October 8, 2013

Boris and Stella are the BEST of friends! They both like hats, scary movies, and enjoy each other’s company. Stella loves to listen as Boris plays his music, and Boris LOVES the cakes that Stella makes in her bakery. While Boris grew up in Russia and Stella’s family came from Italy, that fact only helps make their relationship more interesting. They are best friends forever.

As the holidays approach, Stella knows that she wants to give Boris a special present for Hanukkah. Checking her piggy bank, she is saddened to discover that she only has a few coins. How can she buy a special present with so little money? All she has is her pine tree that came from Italy to remind her of her family. At the same time, Boris is trying to figure out what to get Stella for Christmas. He, too, wants to find the absolutely perfect gift for his best friend. Alas, his little savings bank is just as empty as Stella’s. Whatever will he do? All he has is his collection of beautiful dreidels.

Reminiscent of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi (one of my favorite short stories), Boris and Stella show what true love is as they decide to part with items dear to their hearts in order to bring joy to another. The author/illustrator, Dara Goldman, has done an outstanding job of retelling a famous story so that children can grasp the true meaning. Her illustrations perfectly compliment the story, with their bright colors and expressive characters. I love everything about this book and believe it is the PERFECT present for the holiday season.

Quill says: The perfect gift for a family that celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah, as well as anybody who enjoys the holidays. Peace, love and hugs, what can be better than that?

 

Through The Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Review written by Marya Jansen - Gruber

Boris and Stella are a pair of bears who, despite their very different backgrounds and occupations, love many of the same things. Boris plays the piano in a restaurant, and Stella is a baker, and they both like hats and scary movies.

   Stella wants to give Boris something special for Hanukkah, but she only has a few coins in her piggy bank. She has nothing worth selling except the pine tree that came from the family farm in Italy. Even though the tree is special to her, Stella decides to sell the tree so that she can buy Boris a dreidel to add to his dreidel collection.

   Boris is also thinking about gift giving. Christmas is coming up and he wants to get Stella a gift that she will treasure. He doesn’t have much money saved up either, but he does have a dreidel collection that his parents gave him when he was growing up in Russia. Boris decides that he will sell his dreidel collection so that he can buy a lovely star for Stella’s special pine tree.

   This heart-warming version of The Gift of the Magi will delight children and their grownups. It is wonderful to see that these two bears in this tale have no trouble giving up things they treasure. Children will see how giving a gift to someone you love is a gift in and of itself.  See review ...

 

Examiner.com

Reviewed on December 14, 2013

"Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift" by Dara Goldman is not just a perfect gift for the holidays -- it's a perfect story for any time of year. There is no "right" time of year to read about love, sacrifice, diversity, and the place family holds in our hearts.

It's pure O. Henry-style at its best. Boris, a musician from Russia, falls in love with Stella, a baker from Italy. He celebrates Hanukkah and she celebrates Christmas. Although they are from different countries, and celebrate different religions, they love each other. And each wants to get a gift for the other.

The problem? Boris and Stella have no money. But Boris has his prized collections of dreidels given to him by his family. And Stella has her prized pine tree grown by her father in Italy and given to her to remind her of her family.

Those too young to have read "The Gift of the Magi" will delight in what happens. Goldman has taken O. Henry's most popular story and magically recreated it into a picture book. It's a picture book that will be read and reread, year after year.

The illustrations deserve a mention -- Goldman not only tells a great story (or retells a great story), she illustrates with bright bold colors and wonderful use of white space. Perceptive readers will notice something about where Boris and Stella do their shopping.

Don't miss this wonderful picture book!       See review ...