Skip to Main Content

The True Gift

Illustrated by Brian Floca

About The Book

Experience the magic of authentic giving in this holiday classic from the Newbery Award–winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall.

All year long Lily and Liam look forward to the holidays at their grandparents’ farm. It’s always the perfect trip: walking to the lilac library, trimming the tree, giving gifts. But this year, thanks to a white cow alone in the meadow, things will be different. This holiday, Lily and Liam will find out the meaning of a special gift.

This holiday classic from a beloved author rings in the season by celebrating the joys of family, community, and true giving.


Chapter One

Liam and I sit on the backseat of Papa’s old car. The car heater isn’t working, so Liam and I share a blanket. We can see our breath in the air.

“How many books did you bring?” whispers Liam.

Liam and I share a worry. Our school closes for ten days, and we’re going to Grandpa and Gran’s house. We always go there in December, waiting for Christmas and Mama and Papa to come Christmas Day. We worry about not taking as many books as we’ll need.

“I brought fifteen books,” I say.

“I brought thirty-seven,” says Liam.

I burst out laughing.

“Don’t worry, Lily. There is the stone library if you run out.”

Liam runs out of books all the time. Sometimes he reads three chapter books in one day.

I smile.

We love that stone library, our second home at Grandpa and Gran’s farm.

“The lilac library,” Liam says.

It’s true. No matter what time of year—winter or summer or fall or spring—that library smells like lilacs.

Liam takes a book out of the bag at his feet. I smile. I am three years older than Liam, and I have a sudden sweet memory of teaching him how to read. He was four years old and he grinned for two weeks when he figured out the mystery of words.

“We’ll have snow,” says Papa, looking up at the sky. Liam and I laugh, and Mama laughs too. We call Papa the Weather Man.

And suddenly, as if his words bring it on, snow begins to fall; flakes one by one, slowly at first, then harder. Papa turns on the windshield wipers, and we watch the back-and-forthing of them.

“I hope the library stays open if it snows,” says Liam.

“That library is always open,” says Mama. “That library has been open ever since I was a little girl.”

We turn into the long dirt driveway to Grandpa and Gran’s house, past the meadow where White Cow turns her head to watch us go by.

“Where’s Rosie?” asks Liam. “Where’s the donkey?”

“Don’t know,” says Mama. “Can’t see her.”

The snow is coming harder now and is beginning to stick to the road. It is almost dusk.

“Did you bring your money?” asks Liam.

I nod.

We have worked weekends and after school to earn money for Christmas presents. I babysat for the three Cooper children across the street. Liam and I both mowed lawns and shoveled snow when it came. Once he painted a shed. There are only two stores in Gran and Grandpa’s small town. But that is enough for us to buy presents for everyone.

Liam holds up a red sock with a gray stripe. It is fat with his money.

I smile. The car passes the barn and pulls up to the front porch of the big white house. There are Christmas lights in every window. Gran and Grandpa come out to wave. Their terriers, Emmet and Charlie, bark fiercely at us, then race down the porch steps happily for jumping and licking.

Snow falls harder.

We’re here!

© 2009 Patricia MacLachlan

About The Author

Photograph by John MacLachlan

Patricia MacLachlan (1938–2022) was the author of many well-loved novels and picture books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal; its sequels, Skylark and Caleb’s StoryEdward’s EyesThe True GiftWaiting for the MagicWhite Fur Flying; Fly Away; and Snow Horses. She lived in western Massachusetts.

About The Illustrator

Brian Floca is the author and illustrator of the acclaimed picture books Locomotive, winner of the Caldecott Medal and a New York Times bestseller; Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11; and Lightship, each a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. He is the illustrator of numerous additional books, including Avi’s Poppy series. You can visit him online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (October 1, 2013)
  • Length: 112 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442488588
  • Grades: 2 - 6
  • Ages: 7 - 11

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

“Newbery Medalist MacLachlan offers a quietly moving Christmas story that illustrates the power of children to change their world…. Floca's delicate, full-page pencil illustrations complement the text with understated emotion.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“The simple, elegant prose tells a warm family story with a classic holiday theme. Floca’s graphite and ebony pencil drawings are lush with evocative detail and perfectly complement this lovely offering.”

– School Library Journal

“With MacLachlan's well-drawn characters and Floca's simple pencil and graphite drawings, it's a poignant story with a classic feel.”

– Publishers Weekly

Awards and Honors

  • Charlie May Simon Children's Book Award Nominee (AR)
  • Crown Award Nominee (TX)

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Patricia MacLachlan

More books from this illustrator: Brian Floca